West stonewalling democracy in Bahrain

West stonewalling democracy in Bahrain

Google Bahrain and you will see how inexcusably the popular uprising in the Persian Gulf sheikhdom is being blacked out by the mainstream media and how discriminatingly the Western leaders ignore the vociferous demands of a nation for democracy and social justice.

Bahraini protesters are arrested and systematically tortured on a daily basis. The head of a fact-finding mission set up by the Bahraini government to investigate reports of torture has said Manama uses the systematic policy of torture against protesters.

Cherif Bassiouni said on November 2, 2011 that he had found 300 cases of torture during his investigation.

“It is not possible to justify torture in any way, and despite the small number of cases, it is clear there was a systematic policy,” Bassiouni said in an interview with Egyptian daily Almasry Alyoum.

“I investigated and I found 300 cases of torture and I was helped in that by legal experts from Egypt and America,” he added.

Brian Dooley of Human Rights First gives a painful account of the ordeals the Bahraini protesters arrested by the Bahraini forces. He also talks about teenage boys severely beaten by the Saudi-backed forces:

“They beat us until they got tired, then other policemen would take over and beat us more,” said one boy.

On March 22, 2012, Bahraini activists released a footage detailing the rape of a child at the hands of the Saudi-backed forces in Bahrain. The footage which was enough to chill the spine and curdle the blood showed a handcuffed child with his pants down. He was badly beaten. He was left unconscious with his hands tied behind his back. He was discovered lying in a street in the village of Sanabis, outside of Manama.

Kangaroo courts are rampant in Bahrain. In a 94-page report titled No Justice in Bahrain: Unfair Trials in Military and Civilian Courts in February 2011, the Human Rights Watch blasted the grotesquely Kafkaesque trials in the country, saying such trials were crass and politically motivated.

“Grossly unfair military and civilian trials have been a core element in Bahrain’s crackdown on pro-democracy protests,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at HRW.

“The government should remedy the hundreds of unfair convictions of the past year by dropping the cases against everyone convicted on politically motivated charges and by adopting effective measures to end torture in detention,” he noted.

The group also demanded Western countries to suspend all military and security-related sales to the regime until the government fully addresses the violations.

“These violations reflect serious, systematic problems with Bahrain’s criminal justice system and the role of the military and intelligence services in state oppression,” the report pointed out.

Western governments shamefully help the autocratic regime of Al Khalifa to quell the protests by providing weapons and military equipment to the government. New official figures disclose that Britain continues to sell arms to Bahrain. According to the figures, the British government approved the sale of “military equipment valued at more than £1m in the months following the violent crackdown on demonstrators a year ago. They included licenses for gun silencers, weapons sights, rifles, artillery and components for military training aircraft” (The Guardian 14 February 2012). Also, in July and September, naval guns and components for detecting and jamming improvised explosive devices were exported to the monarchy.

In 2010, the US which has its Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, sold over $200 million worth of weapons to the country, up from $88 million in 2009. In September 2011, the United States delayed a US$53 million arms sale to Bahrain for its possible concerns for the human rights violations in the country and the severe criticism by human rights groups. For instance, Maria McFarland of Human Rights Watch said, “This is exactly the wrong move after Bahrain brutally suppressed protests and is carrying out a relentless campaign of retribution against its critics. By continuing its relationship as if nothing had happened, the US is furthering an unstable situation.”

However, in a January 27, 2012 statement, the US State Department said it was planning to push ahead with the sale of approximately $1 million of equipment to Bahrain. All of a sudden, the US decided that Bahrain is an “important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East” and that they should do their best to provide the regime with all sorts of military equipment including 44 Humvees, more than 50 bunker-buster missiles and night-vision technology.

In reaction to the opposition of human rights activists, a US State Department official said that Washington “weighs the economic, national security, foreign policy and human rights implications of any proposed transfer of arms very carefully”.

The official who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter added, “We view the proposed sale as one that would help Bahrain’s defense force develop its capabilities against external threats and would ensure interoperability with our forces” (The Washington Post September 29, 2011).

Apart from having at his disposal UK and US weapons, Bahrain’s king Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has reportedly received some bezels of wisdom in cracking down on the protesters from the notorious British Colonel Ian Henderson AKA the Butcher of Bahrain. Ian Henderson is an enigmatic personality who is well-versed in military tactics and torture. A British citizen whose very name conjures up images of appalling torture methods, he used torture to crush the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya, and later the 1990s uprising in Bahrain. It is widely speculated that Henderson has orchestrated the crackdown in Bahrain. He is charged with torturing Bahrainis while he served as the head of state security in Bahrain for approximately 30 years. According to political dissidents, he resorted to torture as a means to quell the opposition movement in Bahrain back in the nineties.

What seems to be of paramount importance is that he must have acted under the guidance of the British government. The complicity of the British government in the torture of the Bahraini dissidents has long been a matter of controversy. On 3 June 1997, at a parliamentary session, former MP George Galloway described Ian Henderson as “Britain’s Klaus Barbie” and said, “Henderson might have walked from the fevered pages of a Graham Greene novel. He was an interrogator of the Mau Mau during colonial rule in Kenya in the bitter struggle for independence. So brutally efficient were his methods that, on obtaining independence for Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta tried to re-engage him in his own security apparatus. So notorious was Henderson that a demonstration was mounted by his victims and the whole affair became so scandalous that Kenyatta was forced to deport him. Via Ian Smith’s Rhodesia, he ended up as the right hand man of the Al-Khalifa. In the Gulf, Henderson is known as the butcher of Bahrain. He is the head of the security services and director of intelligence and has gathered around him the kind of British dogs of war, mercenaries, whose guns and electric shock equipment are for hire to anyone who will pay the price” (www.publications.parliament.uk).

Ian Henderson was honored by Queen Elizabeth II with the title “Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire” (CBE) in 1986. He was also honored by Government of Bahrain with Order of Bahrain 1st Class and Bahrain Meritorious Service Medal 1st Class.

The West blatantly pontificates about democracy in the Middle East and North Africa and shuts its ears to the excruciating cry for social justice in Bahrain. To crown it all, it provides the regime with every means to carry out its brutality and crackdown.

China rejects Obama’s Iran oil import sanctions

China rejects Obama’s Iran oil import sanctions

NewsOK

BEIJING (AP) — China rejected President Barack Obama’s decision to move forward with plans for sanctions on countries buying oil from Iran, saying Saturday that Washington had no right to unilaterally punish other nations.

South Korean officials said they will continue working with the U.S. to reduce oil imports from Iran, as other U.S. allies who depend on Iranian oil worked to find alternative energy supplies.

Obama announced Friday that he is plowing ahead with the potential sanctions, which could affect U.S. allies in Asia and Europe, as part of a deepening campaign to starve Iran of money for its disputed nuclear program. The U.S. and allies believe that Iran is pursuing a nuclear bomb; Iran denies that.

China is one of the biggest importers of Iranian oil, and its Foreign Ministry reiterated its opposition to the U.S. moves.

“The Chinese side always opposes one country unilaterally imposing sanctions against another according to domestic law. Furthermore it does not accept the unilateral imposition of those sanctions on a third country,” the ministry said in a brief statement Saturday.

Beyond the rhetoric, Beijing has taken a two-pronged approach to the U.S. demands, insisting that China has the right to import oil from Iran or any other country while quietly reducing imports of Iranian oil. Though the government has not explained the reductions, oil traders and industry executives have said it may stem more from a pricing dispute with Iran than as a response to U.S. pressure.

Behind the scenes, Washington has repeatedly encouraged Beijing to seek supplies elsewhere, and Saudi Arabia offered to fill a shortfall when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited Gulf countries early this year.

The looming U.S. sanctions aim to further isolate Iran’s central bank, which processes nearly all of the Iran’s oil purchases, from the global economy. Obama’s move clears the way for the U.S. to penalize foreign financial institutions that do oil business with Iran by barring them from having a U.S.-based affiliate or doing business here.

What Gives Obama the Right To Interfere In the Business Affairs of Sovereign Nations?

[Obama has neither the right nor the authority to disrupt economic relations between other nations.  He does not have the right to dictate the scientific or research efforts of Iran.  He most certainly does not have either the right or the authority to to invade foreign nations, in order to force them to accept his demands—No matter what any piece of paper from the so-called “United Nations” might hand him!  American actions, in regards to Iran, are actually sufficient grounds for war, by any civilized standards, if recent assassinations of scientists and other terrorist acts can be conclusively linked to the United States or Israel.  Interference in Iranian and Pakistani affairs (Peace Pipeline), among others, are likewise adequate grounds to take the American aggressors to the UN Security Council.]

Barack Obama

Oil markets remain tight, the White House said. Surging gasoline prices have become a major issue in the presidential election campaign.

Reuters

BURLINGTON, Vt./WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama vowed on Friday to forge ahead with tough sanctions on Iran, saying there was enough oil in the world market – including emergency stockpiles – to allow countries to cut Iranian imports.

In his decision, required by a sanctions law he signed in December, Obama said increased production by some countries as well as “the existence of strategic reserves” helped him come to the conclusion that sanctions can advance.

“I will closely monitor this situation to assure that the market can continue to accommodate a reduction in purchases of petroleum and petroleum products from Iran,” he said in a statement.

Obama had been expected to press on with the sanctions to pressure Iran to curb its nuclear program, which the West suspects is a cover to develop atomic weapons but which Iran says is purely civilian.

The overt mention of government-controlled stockpiles may further stoke speculation that major consumer nations are preparing to tap their emergency stores this year.

“I do think it was interesting that it was laid out there,” said David Pumphrey, an analyst at theCenter for Strategic and International Studies.

“It was sort of like a reminder that yes, this is part of the tool kit,” said Pumphrey, a former Energy Department official.

NO DECISION ON STRATEGIC RELEASE

Oil markets remain tight, the White House said. Surging gasoline prices have become a major issue in the presidential election campaign.

“A series of production disruptions in South Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Nigeria, and the North Sea have removed oil from the market,” the White House said in a statement.

France is in talks with the United States and Britain on a possible release of strategic oil stocks to push fuel prices lower, French ministers said on Wednesday.

Senior Obama administration officials told reporters that the United States views releasing emergency stocks as an option, but said no decision has been made on specific actions.

Oil prices briefly rallied by about 70 cents on the announcement, but later reversed gains to end almost flat as traders turned mindful of the possible use of reserves.

“There’s been a shift from focus on a threat (by Iran) to close the Strait of Hormuz to whether or not reserves are going to be released,” said Dominick Caglioti, a broker at Frontier Trading Co. inNew York.

PUTS IMPORTERS ON NOTICE

Going forward, Obama is required by law to determine every six months whether the price and supply of non-Iranian oil are sufficient to allow consumers to “significantly” cut their purchases from Iran.

The law allows Obama, after June 28, to sanction foreign banks that carry out oil-related transactions with Iran’s central bank and effectively cut them off from the U.S. financial system.

“Today, we put on notice all nations that continue to import petroleum or petroleum products from Iran that they have three months to significantly reduce those purchases or risk the imposition of severe sanctions on their financial institutions,” said Senator Robert Menendez, co-author of the sanctions law.

Obama can offer exemptions to countries that show they have “significantly” cut their purchases from Iran, and recently exempted Japan and 10 EU countries from the sanctions.

A senior administration official told reporters that talks continue with China, India, South Korea and other importers.

“Each day I think really we see a number of positive indicators from a broad range of countries,” the official said, citing an announcement by Turkey on Friday that it would cut imports of oil from Iran by 10 percent as an example.

NEW SANCTIONS IN THE WORKS

Obama faces a delicate balancing act on Iran, leading up to November U.S. general election. On the one hand, he must show voters he is being tough on the Islamic state.

But with oil and gasoline prices surging in response to geopolitical risks, he must also avoid steps that would unduly rattle oil markets. That could threaten the global economy and hurt voters already angered by the rising cost of fuel.

Obama also faces pressure from some lawmakers in Congress who want to make sanctions on Iran even tighter. The House of Representatives has already passed additional sanctions, and a bill is pending in the Senate.

Senior administration officials briefing reporters declined comment on the proposed new sanctions.

“We welcome the president’s determination and applaud the administration’s faithful implementation of the Menendez-Kirk amendment,” said a spokesman for Senator Mark Kirk, a Republican who has pushed for additional measures.

“To build on this momentum, we hope the Senate will consider amendments to the pending Iran sanctions bill that would continue to increase the economic pressure on the Iranian regime,” Kirk’s spokesman said.

Syria declares it has defeated revolt

Syria declares it has defeated revolt

Syrian anti-regime protesters waving pre-Baath Syrian flags during a demonstration in Dael in the southern Syrian province of Daraa (AFP PHOTO/GENERAL COMMITTEE OF THE SYRIAN REVOLUTION)

Syrian anti-regime protesters waving pre-Baath Syrian flags during a demonstration in Dael in the southern Syrian province of Daraa (AFP PHOTO/GENERAL COMMITTEE OF THE SYRIAN REVOLUTION)

DAMASCUS: Syria declared Saturday it had defeated those seeking to bring down the regime while reiterating support for a UN-Arab peace plan, as its troops reportedly shelled rebels in the flashpoint city of Homs.

Foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdisi, cited by the official SANA news agency, also said that Syrian troops would withdraw from urban areas once they had been stabilised.

The United Nations says more than 9,000 people have been killed in the crackdown by forces of President Bashar al-Assad on an Arab Spring-inspired uprising that began a year ago with pro-democracy protests.

“The battle to topple the state is over, and the battle to solidify stability… and move on towards a renewed Syria has begun,” Makdisi said in an interview originally carried on state television.

The spokesman said the Assad government’s focus was also to “rally visions behind the reform process” and “prevent those who seek to sabotage reform.”

Troops would withdraw from urban areas once they were secured, he said, adding UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan acknowledged there were “illegitimate armed elements within the opposition”.

“The presence of the Syrian Arab army in Syrian cities is for defensive purposes (so) as to protect the civilians,” Makdisi was quoted as saying by SANA.

“Once peace and security prevail, the army is to pull out,” he added.

SANA said that Makdisi made the appearance on television in a bid to explain to Syrians why the government had this week accepted Annan’s six-point peace plan.

Annan appealed for an immediate ceasefire on Friday, as monitors said at least 39 people — all but seven of them civilians — were killed across Syria as security forces sought to crush the popular uprising.

Shells rained down on Homs on Friday, as thousands of people took to the streets across Syria to protest against what they regard as the inaction of Arab governments dealing with the crisis.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said that the Homs neighbourhood of Khaldiyeh, one of the main rebel bastions, came under renewed rocket fire from the military again on Saturday morning.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was to hold talks on Saturday with Gulf Arab leaders aimed at putting pressure on Syria’s regime to stop its bloody protest crackdown.

Clinton is expected to hold the talks in Riyadh before a “Friends of Syria” meeting in Istanbul on Sunday which ministers from dozens of Arab and Western countries are due to attend.

But there are differences over how to help the Syrian people in their bid for democracy.

Saudi Arabia and its neighbour Qatar have called for arming the opposition, which includes the Free Syrian Army made up of Syrian military defectors.

An Arab League summit in Baghdad this week rejected the option of arming any side, and called on all parties to engage in a “serious national dialogue.”

On Friday, Clinton discussed with Saudi leaders efforts to send more humanitarian aid into Syria, and support opposition efforts to present a united and inclusive political vision for the future.

They also discussed tightening the array of US, European, Canadian, Arab and Turkish sanctions on Syria, a US State Department official said.

The United States and Turkey have agreed on the need to provide communications and other non-lethal aid to the opposition.

In Washington, the Treasury Department announced it was targeting Defence Minister Dawoud Rajiha as well as the army’s deputy chief of staff and the head of presidential security, in its latest round of sanctions against Damascus.

The United Nations is making plans for a Syria ceasefire observer mission if hostilities are halted, but the Damascus government has not even approved sending officials for talks, UN officials said.

The preliminary planning for the force is part of contacts between Annan and Assad’s government.

A UN official in New York said a minimum of 250 observers would be needed if the Syrian government halted its offensive on protesters and gave its agreement for the international force.

Annan’s peace plan calls for a commitment to stop all armed violence, a daily two-hour humanitarian ceasefire, media access to all areas affected by the fighting, an inclusive Syrian-led political process, a right to demonstrate, and release of arbitrarily detained people.

– AFP/fa

Lawyer says U.S. blocks investigation of Afghan massacre

Lawyer says U.S. blocks investigation of Afghan massacre

Attorney John Henry Browne (R), civil legal counsel to Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) based soldier Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the then-deployed U.S. Army soldier accused of murdering 17 Afghan civilians earlier this month, speaks in a press conference in his Seattle, Washington office March 30, 2012. REUTERS-Anthony Bolante
Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, (L) 1st platoon sergeant, Blackhorse Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, is seen during an exercise at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, in this August 23, 2011 DVIDS handout photo. REUTERS-Department of Defense-Spc. Ryan Hallock-Handout

By Bill Rigby

SEATTLE

(Reuters) – The lawyer defending the U.S. soldier accused of murdering 17 Afghan civilians claims U.S. authorities are blocking his ability to investigate the incident.

John Henry Browne, the lawyer for Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, said U.S. forces in Afghanistan have prevented his team from interviewing injured civilians at a hospital in Kandahar, and are allowing other potential witnesses to scatter, making it difficult to track them down.

“When prosecutors don’t cooperate, it’s because they are concerned about the strength of their case,” said Browne at a press conference at his downtown Seattle office on Friday.

Bales was formally charged last week with the murders of eight adults and nine children in a pre-dawn shooting rampage in southern Afghanistan on March 11, which further eroded U.S.-Afghan relations already strained by a decade of war.

He could face the death penalty if convicted.

No date has been set for a trial, but U.S. military prosecutors are putting together their case while Browne is preparing his defense.

Browne said he has a team of investigators in Afghanistan now, but they are receiving little cooperation from military prosecutors who filed the charges.

“We are facing an almost complete information blackout from the government, which is having a devastating effect on our ability to investigate the charges preferred against our client,” he said in a statement released earlier on Friday.

A reliable account of the events of the night of the massacre has not yet emerged. A recent report indicated Afghan villagers doubt Bales acted alone. Other reports suggest Bales left his base twice during the night.

“I don’t believe that’s the case, but we don’t know for sure at this point,” Browne said on Friday.

Browne said his investigators had spoken to U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan but had not managed to contact any witnesses.

DENIED ACCESS

“When we tried to interview the injured civilians being treated at Kandahar Hospital we were denied access and told to coordinate with the prosecution team,” Browne said in the earlier statement.

“The next day the prosecution team interviewed the civilians injured. We found out shortly after the prosecution interviews of the injured civilians that the civilians were all released from the hospital and there was no contact information for them.” That means potential witnesses will scatter and could prove unreachable, Browne said.

Prosecutors had not shared their investigative findings with his team, and would not share images captured by a surveillance camera on a blimp above the base which the Army says shows Bales returning to the camp after the alleged shooting, he said.

The next step in the case is for Bales – who is being held at a military detention center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas – to undergo a mental assessment by Army doctors independent of both the prosecution and defense, to determine if he is fit to stand trial, known as a “sanity board” in the Army.

That could take several months, Browne said.

After that has occurred, the military justice system requires a preliminary hearing, known as an “Article 32” hearing, to establish whether there is a strong enough case to proceed to a court martial.

Browne said it was too early to say whether post-traumatic stress disorder would feature in his defense against the charges. “I don’t know whether it will at all,” said Browne.

“First thing we have to find out is whether the government has a case. Until we’re convinced the government has a case, we’re not going to start speculating on what our defenses are going to be.”

(Reporting By Bill Rigby; Editing by Todd Eastham and Paul Simao)

Former Soviet KGB spy chief commits suicide

Former Soviet KGB spy chief commits suicide

Former Soviet KGB spy chief commits suicideEx-Soviet KGB foreign intelligence chief Leonid Shebarshin was found dead in his Moscow apartment on March 30 in an apparent suicide, Russian investigators said.ria.ru

Reuters

MOSCOW – Ex-Soviet KGB foreign intelligence chief Leonid Shebarshin was found dead in his Moscow apartment on March 30 in an apparent suicide, Russian investigators said.

Shebarshin, 77, who headed the First Chief Directorate, a foreign intelligence service within the KGB during 1989-1991, appeared to have committed suicide, the Investigative Committee said on its website http://www.sledcom.ru. A gun, which he was awarded upon retirement, was discovered near his body.

Police also found a suicide note on the scene, Interfax news agency quoted a police official as saying.

The ex-spy, fluent in Urdu, worked on assignments in Pakistan, India and Iran in the 1950s-1970s. He was appointed deputy chief of foreign intelligence in 1987, and promoted to head the service in 1989.

Shebarshin briefly occupied the KGB’s top post after the failed August 1991 hardline coup, intended to halt president Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms paved the way for the collapse of the communist party, the end of the Soviet Union and the creation of the present-day Russian state.

He resigned from active service shortly after the coup.

Read more: http://www.kyivpost.com/news/russia/detail/125248/#ixzz1qdk4PpJj

Pipe to nowhere?

Pipe to nowhere?

By Safiya Aftab

Trilateral summit

International sanctions against Iran may end Pakistan’s hopes of importing gas to deal with its energy crisis

The Iran-Pakistan pipeline may be the only way to go if Pakistan wants to continue using its gas transmission infrastructure and avoid fuel conversion expenses. But the option will not be easy to implement.

The pipeline was first proposed in 1994, and was supposed to extend to India. Eighteen years on, India has effectively bowed out, Pakistan’s energy crisis has assumed dire proportions, and Iran is facing crippling international sanctions as punishment for its purported nuclear ambitions. So where do things stand?

The government of Pakistan has come out strongly in support of the project, asserting in mid-February that the pipeline will go through, even as Iran is increasingly isolated in the international community.

As of August 2011, NESPAK had completed a reconnaissance survey of the 800km part of the pipeline that is to pass through Pakistan’s territory. It is currently preparing a feasibility study in collaboration with a German firm ILF. The government says the construction of the Pakistan section will be complete by December 2013. Iran has almost finished putting in the necessary infrastructure on its side of the border. Pakistan will have to start paying $2 million a day to Iran in penalties if it does not go through with the project.

Meanwhile, the pressure on Iran and on all parties who have any form of financial dealing with Iran is building up. Buyers of Iranian oil (most recently South Korea and India) are unable to repatriate payments to the country, as Iranian banks can no longer carry out transactions in dollars. The sanctions are aimed particularly at the energy sector (upstream, as well as on shipping of Iranian oil), and are leading to a withdrawal of international oil and gas companies from the country. Iran has the world’s second largest proven reserves of natural gas, and is part owner, along with Qatar, of the South Pars gas field, which is supposed to be the world’s largest field. This is also the field from which the Iran-Pakistan pipeline is supposed to originate. In spite of this endowment, Iran ranks only 25th in the international list of gas exporters, as it does not have the financial or technical resources to develop its fields. Qatar has become the world’s leading liquefied natural gas exporter using the same field, while Iran is facing a steady decline in its already relatively low level of exports.

For now, the biggest issue is financing. Inter-State Gas Systems (ISGS), the company handling the proposed project in Pakistan, estimates the cost of pipeline construction at $1.2 billion. It envisaged raising 30% (or about $373 million) of this in the form of equity, while the remaining would be debt. Of the total equity stakes, 51% are supposed to come from the public sector in Pakistan, while international investors are supposed to make up the remaining. The loans were, of course, to come from international financial institutions.

But as a result of the sanctions on Iran, Pakistan is having difficulty finding financiers. Even if the government manages to put up the 51% equity, getting the remaining funds will be a struggle. In January this year, the National Bank of Pakistan and the Oil and Gas Development Corporation (OGDC) decided to withdraw from the project for fear of repercussions on their international operations and withdrawal of foreign investment respectively. Most international banks will not touch the project. More worrying, China, which was long considered a supporter of the project, has gone silent in spite of the fact that the government of Pakistan appointed, in December 2011, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China as the leader of a consortium that will act as financial advisors to the project.

Iran itself has offered to finance Pakistan’s share of the pipeline construction costs, but this is not a credible offer given its own straitened circumstances. Russia’s Gazprom has reportedly shown interest, which may be an option worth exploring.

So what are Pakistan’s options?

The cautious option is to just let the project die a natural death, while posturing valiantly in favor of Iran. The Iranian government can hardly blame any country for backtracking on any deal with it, in the current situation. Pakistan can cite extenuating circumstances and simply put the project on the back-burner for another (sunnier) day. There are indications that Pakistan may already be buying time. It has indicated that it wants to review the price – bringing it down from the currently agreed 78% of crude oil parity to 70% (something that Iran is likely to agree to readily in the circumstances). It has also, just before the recent heads of government meeting in Islamabad, asked Iran to have its reserves verified by the third party.

But Pakistan needs the gas for the longer term. The proposed TAPI pipeline which traverses Afghanistan is a non-starter. And while LNG imports from Qatar can help fill the gap at least for power generation, it is not a substitute for a long-term supply of natural gas, which is expected to generate up to $100 billion in savings over 25 years. There is the issue of the reparations that are to be made to Iran if Pakistan backs out. There is the issue of not really having any viable alternatives – the US for all its huffing and puffing hasn’t put anything concrete on the table and is unlikely to do so, given how hostile the US Congress is becoming towards Pakistan. And lastly, there is the issue of saving face – Pakistan has really gone out on a limb to support Iran in its current crisis. Having taken on the US and others so boldly, can it now just backtrack? Alternatively, can it afford to take on a fight with yet another neighbor?

Even if everything goes on schedule, the pipeline will not be in place for another three years. A lot can change in that timeframe. For now, it appears to be in Pakistan’s interests to continue to pursue the project as best as it can, without being overtly aggressive towards the international community. There may well be wiggle room that will allow Pakistan to proceed without necessarily being on the wrong side of international law. No payments are being made to Iran just yet, and in any case, the bilateral agreements on the pipeline pre-date the latest Security Council sanctions that seek to limit trade with Iran. Pakistan should avoid making grand or provocative gestures, but financing options should be explored in earnest, and the project should not be abandoned.

Pipe to nowhere?

 5 5

The Iran-Pakistan pipeline may be the only way to go if Pakistan wants to continue using its gas transmission infrastructure and avoid fuel conversion expenses. But the option will not be easy to implement.

The pipeline was first proposed in 1994, and was supposed to extend to India. Eighteen years on, India has effectively bowed out, Pakistan’s energy crisis has assumed dire proportions, and Iran is facing crippling international sanctions as punishment for its purported nuclear ambitions. So where do things stand?

The government of Pakistan has come out strongly in support of the project, asserting in mid-February that the pipeline will go through, even as Iran is increasingly isolated in the international community.

As of August 2011, NESPAK had completed a reconnaissance survey of the 800km part of the pipeline that is to pass through Pakistan’s territory. It is currently preparing a feasibility study in collaboration with a German firm ILF. The government says the construction of the Pakistan section will be complete by December 2013. Iran has almost finished putting in the necessary infrastructure on its side of the border. Pakistan will have to start paying $2 million a day to Iran in penalties if it does not go through with the project.

Meanwhile, the pressure on Iran and on all parties who have any form of financial dealing with Iran is building up. Buyers of Iranian oil (most recently South Korea and India) are unable to repatriate payments to the country, as Iranian banks can no longer carry out transactions in dollars. The sanctions are aimed particularly at the energy sector (upstream, as well as on shipping of Iranian oil), and are leading to a withdrawal of international oil and gas companies from the country. Iran has the world’s second largest proven reserves of natural gas, and is part owner, along with Qatar, of the South Pars gas field, which is supposed to be the world’s largest field. This is also the field from which the Iran-Pakistan pipeline is supposed to originate. In spite of this endowment, Iran ranks only 25th in the international list of gas exporters, as it does not have the financial or technical resources to develop its fields. Qatar has become the world’s leading liquefied natural gas exporter using the same field, while Iran is facing a steady decline in its already relatively low level of exports.

For now, the biggest issue is financing. Inter-State Gas Systems (ISGS), the company handling the proposed project in Pakistan, estimates the cost of pipeline construction at $1.2 billion. It envisaged raising 30% (or about $373 million) of this in the form of equity, while the remaining would be debt. Of the total equity stakes, 51% are supposed to come from the public sector in Pakistan, while international investors are supposed to make up the remaining. The loans were, of course, to come from international financial institutions.

But as a result of the sanctions on Iran, Pakistan is having difficulty finding financiers. Even if the government manages to put up the 51% equity, getting the remaining funds will be a struggle. In January this year, the National Bank of Pakistan and the Oil and Gas Development Corporation (OGDC) decided to withdraw from the project for fear of repercussions on their international operations and withdrawal of foreign investment respectively. Most international banks will not touch the project. More worrying, China, which was long considered a supporter of the project, has gone silent in spite of the fact that the government of Pakistan appointed, in December 2011, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China as the leader of a consortium that will act as financial advisors to the project.

Iran itself has offered to finance Pakistan’s share of the pipeline construction costs, but this is not a credible offer given its own straitened circumstances. Russia’s Gazprom has reportedly shown interest, which may be an option worth exploring.

So what are Pakistan’s options?

The cautious option is to just let the project die a natural death, while posturing valiantly in favor of Iran. The Iranian government can hardly blame any country for backtracking on any deal with it, in the current situation. Pakistan can cite extenuating circumstances and simply put the project on the back-burner for another (sunnier) day. There are indications that Pakistan may already be buying time. It has indicated that it wants to review the price – bringing it down from the currently agreed 78% of crude oil parity to 70% (something that Iran is likely to agree to readily in the circumstances). It has also, just before the recent heads of government meeting in Islamabad, asked Iran to have its reserves verified by the third party.

But Pakistan needs the gas for the longer term. The proposed TAPI pipeline which traverses Afghanistan is a non-starter. And while LNG imports from Qatar can help fill the gap at least for power generation, it is not a substitute for a long-term supply of natural gas, which is expected to generate up to $100 billion in savings over 25 years. There is the issue of the reparations that are to be made to Iran if Pakistan backs out. There is the issue of not really having any viable alternatives – the US for all its huffing and puffing hasn’t put anything concrete on the table and is unlikely to do so, given how hostile the US Congress is becoming towards Pakistan. And lastly, there is the issue of saving face – Pakistan has really gone out on a limb to support Iran in its current crisis. Having taken on the US and others so boldly, can it now just backtrack? Alternatively, can it afford to take on a fight with yet another neighbor?

Even if everything goes on schedule, the pipeline will not be in place for another three years. A lot can change in that timeframe. For now, it appears to be in Pakistan’s interests to continue to pursue the project as best as it can, without being overtly aggressive towards the international community. There may well be wiggle room that will allow Pakistan to proceed without necessarily being on the wrong side of international law. No payments are being made to Iran just yet, and in any case, the bilateral agreements on the pipeline pre-date the latest Security Council sanctions that seek to limit trade with Iran. Pakistan should avoid making grand or provocative gestures, but financing options should be explored in earnest, and the project should not be abandoned.

Assad’s troops close in on foreign mercenaries

Assad’s troops close in on foreign mercenaries

A feature of the Syrian crisis which must please those ostensibly seeking the regime’s ouster is that it is turning out to be a long drawn one. So long drawn, in fact, that the world is beginning to develop an amnesia about the Palestinian issue. This must a good for some. It certainly provides respite, a digression with a potential to keep attention away from embarrassing themes even as the puppeteers improvise one crisis after another.

The United States, Europe, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar are openly in Al Qaeda’s company in Syria

There are now journalists, ferried into Syria by reliable smugglers, testifying to “cross-border terrorism” from Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon into Syria. The “brutal” Syrian response makes headlines but “cross-border terrorism” does not. The expression should be in New Delhi’s recollection atleast.

Governments are sometimes secretive and muffle their responses. But cross-border terrorism does not echo even with the Indian media and those who imagine they trigger public discourse? Debate rages in the US on whether assassinating Iranian scientists serves a useful purpose. But the intelligentsia in this mother of civilizations expresses no astonishment that the ethical question – whether organizing assassination of scientists is right or wrong – is nowhere in the discourse. Is this state of affairs, an improvement on Anthony Trollope’s description of a Tasmanian settler who, when asked whom he would kill first if he saw a snake and an aborigine, replied with stunning candour: “the question should not arise!”

Already, the Syrian story has had many shocking twists. The Arab League sends a mission to Syria but its report is turned down because the “Sudanese” head of the mission is too “balanced” between state brutality and the protesters’ violence. That Al Qaeda and Taliban operatives from Libya, Afghanistan and Pakistan have found their way into Syria has been reported even in the West. But Taliban from Qatar? Is Qatar, a hub for a dialogue with the Taliban, also beginning to double up as a recruitment center for Syrian operations? If so, these operations have the blessings from the highest Al Qaeda authority, Ayman al Zawahiri.

In other words the United States, Europe, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar are openly in Al Qaeda’s company in Syria. Launch a global war on terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan and set up Al Qaeda in new theatres like Libya and Syria! I suppose, the global war on terror will be redirected to these theatres once Afghanistan and Pakistan have been cleansed – a sort of second phase in a two-stroke operation.

Banakarmitana

Mitakar banana

(Build, destroy, build again)

Meanwhile, the Syrian game has been immeasurably complicated by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Damascus along with Russian Intelligence personnel. Photographic proof has been compared of all the outside build up of violent dissent inside Syria.

Evidently, Bashar al Assad has been given a fortnight within which to “clean up” such centers of rebellion as Homs, not far from the Lebanese border.

Espionage related diplomacy is proceeding parallel to the Homs operations. For example, the rebels captured nine Iranian pilgrims taking the land route through Alleppo to Hama and onto the Zainab shrine, in Damascus. At about the same time, the Syrian Army arrested 49 Turkish soldiers. Ankara asked Teheran to arrange for their release. Turkish Foreign Minister AhmetDavutoglu rushed to Moscow for help. To facilitate a swap, the Free Syrian Army (a rebel outfit) released the Iranian pilgrims on the Turkish side of the border. The pilgrims have returned to Teheran.

An infinitely more serious situation has arisen in a part of Homs where Foreign Mercenaries and special forces are surrounded by the Syrian Army. Rather than bomb the Baba Amro area, the Syrian strategy is to capture the foreigners alive and turn the tables on the Western media war. A clue to the veracity of this story came from French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe who is seeking Russian help to create “humanitarian corridors” to allow access to “civilians caught up in the violence”. In fact an effort is on to have the “corridors” idea included in a new Security Council Resolution the west is trying to rope the Russians into.

The Syrians meanwhile are keeping their eyes on the clock and hastening slowly towards tightening the cordon on the Baba Amro locality in Homs. As further good news for them, Jordanian sources confirm the arrest by the Jordanian army of seven terrorists crossing into Syria.

Active Endeavour and Drug Trafficking

Active Endeavour and Drug Trafficking

By ORIENTAL REVIEW

We all are aware of the basic frameworks of the US response to barbaric 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Bush’s administration and NATO launched unprecedented media, diplomatic and military campaigns aimed to suppress the adversary inside its haunt in Afghanistan. But few remember that the US Operation Enduring Freedom and NATO’s International Security Assistance Force weren’t the only military frameworks for multilateral rebuff to Al-Qaeda. At the same time the United States announced an unprecedented maritime operation named Active Endeavour. The latter is known less as it was based not on the UN Resolution 1368, but notorious article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty stipulating ‘collective self-defense’.

Immediately after all the operations started gaining momentum. But while the expediency of the Enduring Freedom and ISAF couldn’t be seriously challenged as the need to fight Taliban in Afghanistan was quite clear at that time, the mission and results of the maritime initiative are not so obvious. Since the very beginning it was announced that the main objective of the operation was to fight terrorism and other illegal activities on maritime communications. But they suddenly started monitoring… only Mediterranean trade routes.

In practical terms the monitoring routine looks like that: a NATO warship or a group of such plies the Mediterranean and the strait of Gibraltar. They check all neighboring merchant vessels through the special database which includes a black list of ‘suspect ships’. If they detect a ship from the black list they board it to inspect documentation and cargo in search of illegal migrants, elements of the weapons of mass destruction, narcotics etc – everything relevant to combating terrorism.

Everything is seemingly Ok. But let’s recall where the main heroin supply routes from the NATO-dominated Afghanistan to Europe lie.

1. Land heroin route (through Turkey,Bulgaria, Kosovo or Bosnia). To facilitate the entrance into the Schengen area and avoid excessive formalities, the heroin packs, often declared as ‘perishable Turkish oranges’, are transported by TIR-labeled juggernauts to clandestine laboratories in the south of France. Typical blue-colored containers with acetyl oxide – one of the principle precursors for heroin refinement have the same destination.

2. Maritime heroin route lies via Mediterranean trade lines to the Corsica Island. The packs are being transshipped there to ferries and follow the voyage to Marseille absolutely unchecked. By the way, according to available intelligence, there are around 20 clandestine heroin refinement plants in the outskirts of Marseille.

Now to the main question: how many tons of heroin were intercepted on merchant vessels in Mediterranean during more than ten years (!) of the operation Active Endeavour? Correct answer: None!

Not a single gram! And we should take it for granted that every day hundreds of kilos of heroin are being shipped through NATO’s ‘area of responsibility’. Curiously enough the Joint Forces Command of the operation located in Naples(Italy) does not even collect such statistics! A couple of times a relevant question concerning such statistics caused confusion and embarrassment among the top admirals leading the operation. There is only one piece of statistics: in 2003-2009 155 merchant vessels were boarded and checked by NATO inspection teams. They did not find anything.

As we already know the methods applied by democrats against international terrorism in Afghanistan, we can’t help asking another question: why NATO is wasting stupendous resources on a purposeless operation? The answer is evident: both ISAF and Active Endeavour are perfectly complying with their real mission: to ensure total control over production, transportation and distribution of illegal drugs, critically important for the ‘global triumph of democracy’.

Map 1. NATO Mediterranean maritime patrol operation zones.

NATO’s Mediterranean maritime operation zone is divided into several patrol squares, each with specific code-name (see map 1). For an unknown reason a large part of the sea surface there is not monitored at all. It concerns first of all the very southern coast of France and major part of Adriatic and Tyrrhenian Sea off Italian coasts. At the same time the most patrolled squares are BUSCH and DODGER – which are exclusive economic zones of Syria and Egypt. The Suez channel is also being strictly monitored, firstly because of its strategic importance and secondly because that is the way to Iranian ports.

Perhaps these ‘black holes’ are thoroughly monitored by the airborne patrols, taking into account that the areas are very close to the US NAF Sigonella in Sicily where P-3 Orion aircrafts are dislocated? Let’s have a look on the square map for aviation (it differs from the maritime map).

Map 2. NATO Mediterranean air patrol operation zones.

The squares where NATO aviation is not present are in black. So the maps are almost identical. US Orions patrol mostly central segment of the Mediterranean. It was caused not by intensive sea traffic, but because Automatic Identification System from the shore-based stations does not reach these places. If a sea-borne tracking station is not present nearby, the vast area would be left unmonitored. Such partial lack of control is unacceptable. This is why US aircrafts are taking off to patrol mostly central Mediterranean.

Such operations are aimed to control cargoes of geopolitical rivals rather than mythic terrorists. Those vessels really involved in the schemes of illegal drugs and weapons smuggling to Europe are obviously not present in the black lists of the NATO tactical units. When Russian and Ukrainian warships participated in Active Endeavour before 2008, they faced blatant restrictions in operations from NATO side. So-called NATO sister-ships imposed to each of them were strictly monitoring all activities and intentions of the aliens.

There is yet another dimension of this story. NATO’s ambitions in early 2000s were extended to Black Sea as well (perhaps caused by the fact that Romanian port of Constanta was another notable gate for Afghan heroin to Europe). In 2004 a twin operation named Black Sea Harmony was launched by Turkey. The standard operation procedure of the latter stipulates information exchange with the joint command of Active Endeavour. So the transparency of the Turkish straits and territorial waters to the international drug cartels is still an open issue.

Feds: D.C. lobbying group was a ‘front’ for Pakistani spy agency

Feds: D.C. lobbying group was a ‘front’ for Pakistani spy agency

Emily Babay
Examiner Staff Writer

A D.C. lobbyist who concealed millions of dollars he received from Pakistan “acted as an agent” of the country’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency and operated his lobbying firm as “a front” for the spy organization, prosecutors say in court papers.

The statements are some of the strongest yet linking 62-year-old Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai to the ISI. The former head of the Kashmiri American Council — a lobbying group that focuses on Kashmir, a disputed area on the India-Pakistan border — is scheduled to be sentenced Friday in federal court in Alexandria.

Prosecutors are asking U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady to sentence Fai to four years behind bars, above the guidelines range of two years and three months to two years and nine months. Fai’s attorney is requesting a sentence of probation.

Fai pleaded guilty in December to one count of conspiracy and one count of corruptly endeavoring to impede the Internal Revenue Service. He admitted that the KAC received money from the ISI and other Pakistani government agencies and was untruthful about the origins of the funds. His plea agreement says that he concealed at least $3.5 million sent to the lobbying group between 1990 and 2011.

Prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum that Fai “labored mightily” to hide his association with the ISI and the sentencing guidelines “do not even purport to measure the harm caused by Fai’s concealment of the fact that the influence he peddled through his conferences and campaign contributions was financed by the ISI.”

Court records say he organized conferences, contributed to candidates and met with congressional officials about unifying Kashmir. Fai duped the American people by pretending that the funds for those efforts came from American citizens, rather than the ISI, according to prosecutors.

Fai only accepted the funds from Pakistan because KAC needed the money, defense attorney Nina Ginsberg wrote in her sentencing memo. Fai thought his lobbying group would be less credible if the source of the donations came to light, she wrote.

In a seven-page letter to O’Grady, Fai says his commitment to peace in Kashmir led to his crimes.

“The reason for going astray of U.S. law was that I was passionate about freedom for the Kashmiri people,” Fai wrote.

ebabay@washingtonexaminer.com

Uzbeks Cut-Off Tajik Gas, May Not Allow Turkmen Gas To Transit

Tajikistan seeks Turkmen gas as shortage looms

* Uzbekistan to stop gas supplies to neighbour from April

* Turkmen-Tajik deal subject to Uzbek transit accord

* Abrupt drop in supply to harm aluminium, cement plants

By Roman Kozhevnikov

DUSHANBE, March 28 (Reuters) – Tajikistan aims to secure natural gas supplies from Turkmenistan to avert a worsening fuel shortage as its traditional supplier prepares to stop pumping from next week, a high-ranking Tajik government representative told Reuters on Wednesday.

Uzbekistan, the sole supplier of natural gas to its Central Asian neighbour, had informed the Tajik government it would halt supplies from April 1 in order to meet growing demand from its main partner, China, the government representative said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid jeopardising current talks, he cited a letter from state company Uztransgaz to its equivalent gas transportation company in Tajikistan.

Mountainous Tajikistan, the poorest of 15 former Soviet republics, experiences frequent power blackouts. Only southern regions of the country and upmarket homes in the centre of the capital Dushanbe receive regular supplies of gas.

The biggest losers from any abrupt cut in gas supplies would be the state-run aluminium smelter, which contributes more than half of the country’s entire export revenues, and a state-owned cement factory.

Relations between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have long been strained over the former’s plans to build a huge hydroelectric power station that Uzbekistan says would disrupt water supplies downstream and harm its agricultural production.

"The stoppage of Uzbek gas supplies is a politically motivated step," said Dushanbe-based political analyst Ramzan Sharipov.

"If Dushanbe cannot agree with Tashkent on supplies of Uzbek gas or transit of Turkmen gas, among the first to suffer will be Tajik Cement, whose products are used to construct the Rogun hydroelectric plant; the cornerstone in Tajik-Uzbek relations."

With an acute shortage looming, the Tajik government representative said Turkmenistan was prepared to export the necessary volumes of gas at an "acceptable" price.

"But we don’t have a common border with Turkmenistan, so we need once again to ask Uzbekistan. Now we are asking only to use the gas pipeline that crosses its territory."

TRANSIT QUESTION

Uzbekistan’s current gas contract with Tajikistan, signed in January after a two-day interruption to supplies, expires at the end of the first quarter.

The contracted volume for the three months to March 31 was 45 million cubic metres, state company Uzbekneftegaz said in a statement posted on its website, http://www.ung.uz, on March 25.

The Tajik representative said his government was willing to continue taking Uzbek gas when available and that it had already proposed a new supply contract to cover the second quarter.

"We buy 15 to 20 million cubic metres of gas every month, which is no more than 10 percent of daily gas production volumes in Uzbekistan," he said. "Our people have long been deprived the pleasure of contemplating warm gas heaters in their homes."

An Uzbek Foreign Ministry spokesman said by telephone from Tashkent that gas supply talks had "no relation to politics."

Turkmenistan holds 4.3 percent of global natural gas reserves, BP data shows, ranking it joint fourth with Saudi Arabia in terms of reserves, behind only Russia, Iran and Qatar.

A source in the Turkmen government said he could not comment on Tajik supplies before negotiations were concluded. But he said: "Turkmenistan is prepared to supply the required volumes of its gas to any customer at the border."

He added: "Transit is the customer’s responsibility."

Tajikistan itself produces no more than 1.5 million cubic metres of gas every month. Toronto-listed Tethys Petroleum and Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom are drilling in the country. (Additional reporting by Marat Gurt in Ashgabat; writing by Robin Paxton; editing by James Jukwey)

Hillary’s Busybodies Looking for New Excuses To Meddle In Asia

[Dig this bullshit–

"the country will focus on the fight against domestic social unrest caused by the water issues that distract them from their collaboration with the United States on important policy objectives." 

Is the intention to keep people in the future from rioting whenever they begin to die of thirst?  Hillary wants to stick her nose into everything.]

Water Truce

 
Arkady Dubnov, a columnist for "Moscow News", especially for the "New" – Kazakhstan "

Hillary Clinton, America has found work in Central Asia

The Americans found a new job in Central Asia after they leave Afghanistan. Yes, however, will be engaged in it, even if there will …

So, note that the mouth of America Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a new initiative – "Partnership for the U.S. Water Resources." So it will be created in the United States called public-private partnerships to improve water management worldwide. Americans can not refuse in the ambitious claims, they are not shy to admit his ideas of globality. But this time it is not about planting democracy and not about the battles for alternative delivery routes of Central Asian hydrocarbons. All serious and I would say, no alternative.

The basis for the proclamation of the initiative was the report prepared by the U.S. intelligence community – the union of 17 federal agencies including the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), National Security Agency (NSA), FBI, etc. The report is based on data classified "national intelligence estimate" relative forecast the situation in the next 30 years, until 2040, around the world water resources in the basin 7 major transboundary rivers around the world, where there is a greater likelihood of conflict.

"Honorary" among them is given the Amu Darya, longest river in Central Asia, a swimming pool which covers five states in the region – Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan. In an open report to specific countries are not named, marked only the general problem of the next 10 years for the States "are important for the United States": water scarcity, poor quality, flooding, which will increase the risk of instability and collapse in the States, but also lead to regional tension.

Interestingly, as formulated, "the intelligence community," the U.S. statement of the question, "the country will focus on the fight against domestic social unrest caused by the water issues that distract them from their collaboration with the United States on important policy objectives." This gives way to frank altruism characteristic of American pragmatism. This immediacy, even impressed, because otherwise it is difficult to believe in their sincere concern for the troubled regions.

"At the end of the next 10 years will also increase the likelihood of water resources as a weapon or implement terrorist purposes," – says the report. In this case, the authors proceed from the historical experience, partly encouraging, they say, the flash of interstate conflicts over water resources in the next 10 years are unlikely, "because historically, tensions over water resources often led to the signing of agreements on the sharing of water resources, than to conflict with violence. "

However, if you remember the level of hostility that separates the two neighbors in the region – Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the minefields on the border between them, where for the past decade and a half blown up dozens of people and hundreds of head of livestock, transport blockade of one of the country, arranged by another propaganda war waged on both sides, this optimism seems a little affectation.

The authors describe the report as a prediction of what is already a reality, at least in Central Asia: "We anticipate that over the next 10 years, the countries that are in the upper reaches of the rivers will hinder or even stop the flow of water down the flow. " And said that the targets of terrorists and rogue states can be hydroelectric dams (in Russia it has become a reality. – AD), the installation of desalination, water channels or pipes.

That offer Americans? Of course, the U.S. leadership in this area. "Our own experience in water resources within our country and our technological expertise are highly regarded around the world – Hillary Clinton, representing the" water "initiative. – As the state will experience more difficulties in the field of water resources or will to deal with crises in this area, they are increasingly likely to seek assistance from the United States. "

Washington Secretary of State promised to assist these states, as diplomatically as well as other possible means. And for some reason it seems that, say, in Dushanbe or Tashkent, where there is a whiff of "fried" in water, but rather turn to faraway America, rather than to close Russia’s mediation efforts. First, it may be advantageous. And secondly, it may be that genetically obliged the Soviet past concerns about the evil thoughts, "Uncle Sam" for the past 20 years, were scattered to a much greater degree than encountered for the same years the fear of being in the new post-Soviet dependence on Moscow …

But even if we imagine that it’s not that sad from the Russian point of view, and the mood in the region is not as Russophobe, we are ready if the Russian commanders to peacemaking in the region? Their services recently proposed CSTO Secretary General Nikolai Bordyuzha, but it seems that other than personal desires, the distinguished general have nothing to boast more – not the political will of the Russian government, nor the necessary means or experienced mediators, none of that in Moscow today is not found.

As noted recently in an interview with the newspaper "Vedomosti" well-known expert on the sociology of international relations Marcos Troyho of Columbia University, "for Russia and to a greater extent for the Soviet Union in an effort to increase its political and military influence tend to do the calculation on brute force rather than to increase well-being, as we have entered China in ’33. " Add that Russia today can not afford to keep on petrodollars over 150,000 technical advisors in 76 countries around the world, as he wrote about another American analyst Michael Dobbs, in his book "The End of the Soviet empire."

In a word, "water truce" in Central Asia, it seems, will be engaged in by Americans. If the legs will carry safely out of Afghanistan …

US Assigns Troops To Protect Other Troops In Their Sleep

New security for U.S. troops in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan have assigned "guardian angels" — troops that watch over their comrades even as they sleep — and have ordered a series of other increased security measures to protect troops against possible attacks by rogue Afghans.

The added protections are part of a directive issued in recent weeks by Marine Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, to guard against insider threats, according to a senior military official. And they come in the wake of a spike in attacks on U.S. and coalition forces by Afghans, including the point-blank shooting deaths of two U.S. advisers in Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior.

Some of the changes have been subtle, others not so much.

In several Afghan ministries, Americans are now allowed to carry weapons. And they have been instructed to rearrange their office desks there to face the door, so they can see who is coming in, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the internal directive.

While Allen did not detail the new measures in a briefing earlier this week, he acknowledged that changes had been made.

"We have taken steps necessary on our side to protect ourselves with respect to, in fact, sleeping arrangements, internal defenses associated with those small bases in which we operate," Allen said, adding that now someone is "always overwatching our forces."

The security measures came after the U.S. military mistakenly burned Qurans and other religious materials in February, triggering anti-American demonstrations and riots. And on Feb. 25, two U.S. military advisers were gunned down at their desks in one of the most heavily guarded ministry building in Kabul.

As a result of the shootings, more than 300 advisers were pulled out of the Afghan ministries. So far, several dozen have returned, but many will not go back until additional security measures are put in place by the Afghans. That would include better vetting procedures, background checks and physical security measures at the ministries. The military official also said some advisers may not return, since commanders have determined that some may no longer be needed in the jobs.

The military official said Allen issued the directive "to get every single troop in the war zone to read it and think" — and to emphasize that troops should be aware of their surroundings as they go about their jobs.

U.S. commanders and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta say the killings do not represent a trend, and they say that less than half of the killings have been by Afghans associated with the Taliban.

Instead, Allen said, these types of attacks come with fighting an insurgency and happened in Iraq and Vietnam. The enemy, he said, will do what it can to disrupt efforts to train and grow a nation’s indigenous security force.

Still, the recent spike in Afghans gunning down troops they are serving alongside reflects increased tensions between the two countries just as the coalition escalates efforts to train Afghans to take over their own security so that most NATO forces can leave by the end of 2014.

Officials insist the killings have not hampered the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. But they come at a time when new, small advisory teams are heading into Afghanistan to beef up the training program, requiring them to work closely with Afghan military units.

So far this year, 16 NATO service members have been shot and killed by Afghan soldiers and policemen or militants disguised in their uniforms, according to an Associated Press tally. That equals 18 percent of the 84 foreign troops killed this year in Afghanistan. Of the approximately 80 NATO service members killed since 2007 by Afghan security forces, more than 75 percent were in the past two years.

In two separate incidents on Monday, Afghan security forces shot and killed one American and two British troops.

In one incident, two British service members were killed by an Afghan soldier in front of the main gate of a joint civilian-military base in southern Afghanistan, the coalition said. And in the second incident, a U.S. service member was shot and killed at a checkpoint in Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan by a man who was believed to be a member of a village-level fighting force the U.S. is fostering in hopes of countering the Taliban insurgency.

According to the military official, the so-called guardian angels provide an extra layer of security, watching over the troops as they sleep, when they are exercising, and going about their day.

Allen noted that the Afghans have also taken some similar steps to provide guards for their own forces.

The Afghans have also inserted their own intelligence officers into their units to help try and ferret out possible insurgents or rogue soldiers. And, since the ministry shooting, the Afghans have taken a number of steps to increase building security in the ministries and to improve the vetting of their workers.

"They are helping the troops to understand how to recognize radicalization or the emergence of extremism in some of those, in individuals who may in fact be suspect," said Allen. He noted that there have also been some arrests by Afghan forces when they identified possible attackers within their ranks.

Russia stares down the West on Syria

Russia stares down the West on Syria

VLADIMIR RADYUHIN

FOLLOW THE LEADER: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has cautioned against attempts to circumvent the authority of the United Nations in finding a solution to the Syrian crisis. The picture is of a European security conference in Moscow on March 23, 2012.

AFP  FOLLOW THE LEADER: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has cautioned against attempts to circumvent the authority of the United Nations in finding a solution to the Syrian crisis. The picture is of a European security conference in Moscow on March 23, 2012.

The West has accepted that Moscow has a key role to play in settling the Syrian crisis.

If one needed a textbook example of how propaganda can help turn defeat into victory then one should look at Western media coverage of recent diplomatic battles on Syria.

Everybody agrees that the so-called “presidential statement” on Syria the U.N. Security Council adopted on March 21 was a turning point in efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis. It marked the first time the Security Council (SC) had reached an agreement on Syria and endorsed a peace plan proposed by U.N. and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan. The surprise consensus in the Council, which was earlier riven by divisions, raised the question of who had made concessions — Western powers or Russia and China, who had vetoed two West-backed SC resolutions.

To believe Western news outlets it is Russia and China that blinked first.

Christian Science Monitor saw Russia’s support for the SC statement as a “distinct shift” in Moscow’s stance. Radio Free Europe said Moscow had “finally relented,” while the Economist categorically declared: “Russia shifted firmly to the side of Al Assad’s detractors.”

The text of the SC statement, however, shows that it is the West that embraced the Russian stand.

First, the statement did not mention the West’s earlier demand for Mr. Assad to step down. (The February SC draft did not openly call on Mr. Assad to leave but voiced support for the Arab League’s plan, which explicitly demanded his resignation as a precondition for political settlement in Syria.)

Second, the Western powers for the first time endorsed the Russian view that the opposition in Syria should talk to the government. The SC statement said that the Syrian crisis should be resolved through “a comprehensive political dialogue between the Syrian government and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition.”

In line with Russian proposals

Third, the SC statement addressed the demand to stop the fighting, not only to the government forces, as the West had insisted earlier, but also to the opposition, as Russia had demanded all along.

Finally, the SC statement did not contain any threats of sanctions or foreign military intervention in Syria that were implied in previous Western drafts.

Moscow had good reason to heartily welcome the SC statement.

Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev said the document was “in line with the proposals Russia has been advocating from the very beginning.”

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov explained what made consensus possible.

“I’m very glad that our [Security Council] colleagues have finally… abandoned ultimatums, threats and attempts to resolve [the Syrian crisis] by making demands to the government only.”

The Arab League has also backed away from “ultimatums”: its head Nabil al-Arabi said that the group is “unlikely” to call for Al Assad to step down at its current summit in Iraq.

Ground realities in Syria have vindicated Russia’s assumptions and proved the West wrong.

Three realities

First, the Syrian regime has turned out to be much stronger than many expected, thanks in part to Russia’s and Iran’s military aid. Large sections of the Syrian population see Al Assad as their best guarantee against inter-confessional violence that may erupt if the ruling regime falls.

Second, the Syrian opposition has failed to unite and speak in one voice. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted that she does not see in Syria “the elements of an opposition that is actually viable.”

Third, al-Qaeda-inspired Islamist groups have established a foothold in Syria raising the spectre of another Iraq.

The strategy of having armed opposition topple the Syrian regime with outside help failed and the West was forced to listen to Russia’s arguments and accept that Russia has a key role to play in settling the Syrian crisis. The initiative has passed to Moscow.

“I share the view that this is a big victory for Russian diplomacy,” said Vitaly Naumkin, head of the Russian Institute of Oriental Studies. “Even the U.S. is edging closer to the Russian stand.”

Russia has said all along that it is not defending the Syrian leaders, but upholding the principle of international law and the interests of regional stability. As far back as last August, Mr. Medvedev had urged Al Assad to “carry out urgent reforms, come to terms with the opposition, restore peace and create a modern state,” if he had wanted to stay in power.

“If he cannot do this, a sad fate awaits him,” the Russian leader had warned.

Last week Mr. Lavrov stated that the Syrian leadership had not only “responded incorrectly to the very first manifestations of the peaceful protests,” but was still “making a lot of mistakes” that are aggravating the crisis.

Mr. Lavrov made it clear that Moscow is not against Al Assad’s eventual departure, but this has to be the decision of Syrians themselves.

“I’m convinced that if a comprehensive dialogue is launched involving all members of the opposition and the government, then it should be possible to solve all questions within this framework, including the question of who would lead Syria during the transition period, the way it was done in Yemen.”

In Russia’s view this scenario of power transition for Syria is not equivalent to foreign-engineered forceful “regime change” advocated by the West.

The unanimous support in the U.N. Security Council for Mr. Annan’s plan focused on facilitating an intra-Syrian dialogue means that Russia’s approach has won the day.

Afghanistan Opts-Out of TAPI Pipeline Scam, Pakistan Thinks That Means More Gas for Them

‘Afghanistan decides to quit TAPI project’

ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan has decided to opt out of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline project and if Afghanistan does, then its share of 500 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) gas will be distributed between Pakistan and India.

This was stated by Petroleum Secretary Ejaz Chaudhary while talking to a group of energy reporters on Wednesday.

He said that final round of TAPI project between energy managers of Tetra partners is expected to be held on April 19 in Kabul, and if Afghanistan is not ready to be a part of TAPI project, then the share of Afghanistan would be distributed between Pakistan and India.

Zaid Hamid Petitions Supreme Court To Restrict Freedom of Speech for the “Glory of Islam” and “Integrity” of Military

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF PAKISTAN, ISLAMABAD

Syed Zaid Zaman Hamid, Founding President of an InternationallyRecognized Threat Analysis Consultancy and Defence Think Tank,

“Brass Tackss”,…..Petitioner

 

Whether it is not a fact that legislature can lawfully impose restrictions upon the freedom of speech and expression on the following grounds, as described in the Article 19 i.e. in the interest of :-

Glory of Islam,
Integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof,
Friendly relations with foreign states
Public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, and finally
Commission or incitement to an offence.

Turajonzoda: Tajikistan does not have to be led by the U.S.

[SEE: Tajik Mufti Who Sees Through Anti-Islamist Western Subversion, Targeted By Tajik Court]

Turajonzoda: Tajikistan does not have to be led by the U.S.

Haji Akbar Turajonzoda

 

Payrav Chorshanbiyev

Tajik authorities in any case should not go in the wake of the U.S., and to spoil relations with the brotherly Iran believes a well-known religious figure in Tajikistan Haji Akbar Turajonzoda.

"In Iran we have a common religion and language, as well as common cultural traditions", – said in an interview Turajonzoda "AP", commenting on the statement by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake made on Tuesday, March 27, concluded on the basis of a regional conference on Afghanistan ..

He believes that the U.S. is unfair and unfounded anti-Iranian policy.

"Iranian leaders have repeatedly denied the allegations in the development of nuclear weapons, noting that the work is carried out exclusively on the production of peaceful nuclear energy, but for some reason, Americans are confident in the opposite" – says the politician.

Meanwhile, he said Turajonzoda, the U.S. does not condemn Israel, which possesses nuclear weapons and maintains a hostile policy towards almost all its neighbors.

"Why do Americans believe Iran is a peaceful country, dangerous to the world community and not Israel, which occupies the territory of its neighbors?" – He asked.

"I am confident that such a policy indicates a hatred of the United States to the Islamic religion," – said Turajonzoda.

He believes that the countries of Central Asia, who have their interests in relations with the United States must be vigilant and to "not allow the Americans to pass the" red line ". "Self-treatment of such appeals to sovereign states is flawed from a political point of view," – said Turajonzoda.

Recall, the U.S. Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Robert Blake said yesterday at a news conference in Dushanbe that "the United States calls on the countries of the region to support sanctions against Iran in Washington and refuse to trade and other relations with this country, in order to put pressure on Tehran and show solidarity with the international community over concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. "

The U.S. Has Very Little Time To Wise-Up

Shodi Shabdolov: The U.S. has very little time

Shodi Shabdolov

Victoria Naumova

Tajikistan, in any case be to break close partnerships with Iran, said in an interview with "AP", the chairman of the Communist Party of Tajikistan Shodi Shabdolov, commenting on the call of the United States to Central Asian countries to cease all relations with the IRI, voiced in Dushanbe, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake.

According Sh.Shabdolova, U.S. call for countries of Central Asia – is an attempt to unite its aggressive geopolitics other countries for which such actions may result in failure.

"It is not in our interest to participate in the political and military blockade of Iran. In the interests of our peace and stability in this country and the region as a whole. If Tajikistan got involved in this venture, he may lose everything, that is, including their national state ", – said the leader of the Tajik Communist.

"The Communist Party of Tajikistan against the aggressive policy of States, both in Iran and other countries" – said Shabdolov.

The leader of the Communist Party supported the statement by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the U.S. should change "its policies, because it came at a time when they dictate their terms to the world."

"The U.S. needs to move from an aggressive political model to the national interest, it is necessary to conduct a civilized dialogue, support trade and economic and political relations", – said the leader of the CPT.

According to policy, the U.S. has very little time to realize that you can not unleash a new war that could lead to disaster.

Pressure from Weapons Industry Leads to Renewed Military Aid to Egypt

Pressure from Weapons Industry Leads to Renewed Military Aid to Egypt

Pressure from Weapons Industry Leads to Renewed Military Aid to Egypt

Egyptian F-16 (photo: Lockheed Martin)
Election year pressure from the U.S. weapons industry succeeded last week in persuading Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to release $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt by using her authority under a new law to waive a requirement that she certify that Egypt’s interim military regime is protecting human rights. A delay or a cut in the aid would have forced Egypt to break contracts with American arms makers, shutting down production lines and laying off workers in the middle of President Obama’s re-election campaign. Furthermore, U.S. taxpayers would have been on the hook for about $2 billion in contractual penalties if all sales had been halted.
The weapons companies involved include Lockheed Martin, which will ship the first batch of 20 new F-16 fighter jets (at a price of about $133 million each) in March, and General Dynamics, which has a $395 million contract to deliver parts for M1A1 tanks being assembled in Egypt.
The decision was quickly criticized on Capitol Hill, with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), who added the human rights requirement to the law authorizing military aid to Egypt, calling the resumption of aid “business as usual,” and Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), saying it was “beyond the pale.” Amnesty International (AI) spokesman Sanjeev Bery said that AI “opposes the funding, sale, or transfer of arms internationally where there is a substantial risk that the specific arms in question will be used to commit or facilitate serious human rights violations.”
But the State Department, in addition to citing the thousands of jobs that would have been lost in the absence of the waiver, also pushed back by emphasizing the progress toward democracy made by Egypt since its revolution last year, a senior State Department official urging that “we’ve seen more progress in 16 months than we’ve seen in 60 years.”
-Matt Bewig

Clinton Working To Implement “Universal Blasphemy Law” To Prevent Criticism of Wahabbi Islam

A Perverse Process

Nina Shea

Hudson Institute

Politics - Hillary

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday ended the “Istanbul Process,” a three-day, closed-door international conference hosted by the State Department on measures to combat religious “intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization.”

The conference was intended to “implement” last March’s UN Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18, on the same subject. Notwithstanding Clinton’s final speech defending freedoms of religion and speech, the gathering was folly.  Resolution 16/18 was adopted in the place of one that endorsed the dangerous idea that “defamation of religion” should be punished criminally worldwide.

That call for a universal blasphemy law had been pushed relentlessly for 12 years by the Saudi-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation, an essentially religious body chartered to “combat defamation of Islam.” It issues fatwas and other directives to punish public expression of apostasy from Islam and “Islamophobia.” Leading OIC states behind this campaign – Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt and Pakistan – imprison and/or sentence to death “blasphemers.”

Resolution 16/18 deplores religious intolerance but doesn’t limit speech – the result of a deft State Department maneuver. The administration should have let matters rest there. Instead, while co-chairing an OIC “High Level Meeting” addressing Islamophobia last July in Istanbul, Clinton invited the OIC to Washington to discuss how to “implement” resolution 16/18.

While the Washington conference ended inconclusively, it should not have been held because it offered a transnational venue for the OIC to reintroduce its anti-defamation push, just as the issue had been laid to rest at the United Nations. The administration erred in viewing resolution 16/18 as a meeting of minds between the OIC and America on freedoms of religion and speech. In Istanbul, Clinton asserted that the United States does not want to see speech restrictions — but her conference announcement immediately reignited OIC demands for the West to punish anti-Islamic speech.

As the OIC reported it: “The upcoming [Washington] meetings . . . [will] help in enacting domestic laws for the countries involved in the issue, as well as formulating international laws preventing inciting hatred resulting from the continued defamation of religions.” It unfairly held up the American experience for special scrutiny and critique.

A legal official’s opening keynote address gave a one-sided historical depiction of American bigotry against religious minorities, including Muslims, without explaining our relatively exemplary achievement of upholding individual freedoms of religion and speech in an overwhelmingly tolerant and pluralistic society. He told the participants, some representing the world’s most repressive states, that America can learn to protect religious tolerance from them.

By standing “united” (as the OIC head put it in a Turkish Daily op-ed) with the OIC on these issues, America appears to validate the OIC agenda, thus demoralizing the legions of women’s rights and human-rights advocates, bloggers, journalists, minorities, converts, reformers and others in OIC states who look to the United States for support against oppression. It raises expectations that America can and will regulate speech on behalf of Islam, as has happened in Western Europe, Canada and Australia.

The European Union mandated religious-hate-speech codes after global riots and other similar violence erupted in 2006 over a Danish newspaper’s publication of caricatures of Mohammad. America is facing pressure to conform to this new global “best practice”; this will only intensify it.

Clinton on Wednesday naively importuned Islamist diplomats: “We have to get past the idea that we can suppress religious minorities, that we can restrict speech, that we are smart enough that we can substitute our judgment for God’s and determine who is or is not blaspheming.” Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi establishment isn’t likely to find such “infidel'” arguments persuasive.

US diplomats should stop the “Istanbul Process” and begin to energetically and confidently promote the virtues of our First Amendment freedoms. They should be thoroughly briefed about the OIC’s intractable position on blasphemy laws and the extent of atrocities associated with them. They must end signaling that there is common ground on these issues between us and the OIC.

Nina Shea writes for Hudson Institute, from where this article is adapted.

The World’s Worst Religious Persecutors

The World’s Worst Religious Persecutors

Today, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (Uscirf) released its14th annual report, which it is mandated to do under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. The report identifies the world’s worst persecutors and makes foreign-policy recommendations, which are non-binding, to the administration and Congress. Its decisions are based on the agency’s visits to foreign countries, and a wide array of other sources, including the State Department’ s own excellent annual compilation of worldwide religious-freedom violations. The commission is distinctive because it is an independent federal agency, and it is to make its name-and-shame lists and policy recommendations unburdened by foreign-policy considerations other than the defense of religious freedom.

This year, Uscirf named 16 countries as the most egregious and systematic religious freedom violators in the world and recommended them for official “Country of Concern” (CPC) designation by the U.S. State Department. They are:

Burma, China, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, (north) Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.

I thought Afghanistan should be on the list as well and said so in my dissent, which is excerpted further down in this column.

Christians, Jews, Baha’is, Mandeans, Ahmadiyas, Rohingya Muslims, Yizidis, Alevis, Shiite and Ismaili Muslims in Saudi Arabia, African traditional believers in Sudan, Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong practitioners, Sufi Muslims, Pakistani Hindus, independent Buddhists in Vietnam, Cao Dai, and many others groups and individuals are persecuted in these 16 countries. They suffer arrest, torture, imprisonment and even death for religious reasons, as well as other pressures. All these groups are covered in the Uscirf report.

Christians are far from the only religious group persecuted in these countries. But, Christians are the only group persecuted in each and every one of them. This pattern has been found by sources as diverse as the Vatican, Open Doors, Pew Research Center, Newsweek, and The Economist, all of which recently reported that an overwhelming majority of the religiously persecuted around the world are Christians. Globally, this persecution is experienced by all Christian faith traditions from Pentecostal and evangelical to Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, calls this the “Ecumenism of the Martyrs.” As the Cardinal put it: “While we as Christians and as churches, live on this earth in an as yet imperfect communion, the martyrs in their celestial glory find themselves in full and perfect communion.”

In many cases the persecution is at the hands of the government, as, for example, in China, Burma, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, but often, in places like Nigeria and Iraq, it is committed by religious extremists and vigilantes in the society who operate within a climate of impunity. In Pakistan and Egypt persecution is sponsored by all three — the authorities, extremist groups, and vigilantes.

Persecution is intensifying now in the Muslim world, as documented throughout the Uscirf report. Each year, the report’s cover reflects a signal event in the global landscape of religious persecution. This year’s bears a photo of Egyptian mourners gathered in central Cairo on October 13, 2011, in honor of some 25 Coptic Christians killed days before by the Egyptian military during a demonstration over an attack on a church. The commission decided it was important to single out the Copts. There are rising fears for them now that Egypt will be governed by Islamists, some of whom, notably from the sizeable Wahhabi or Salafist parliamentarian faction, have openly declared their intent of religious cleansing.

Perhaps there is no more poignant and symbolic an assault on Christianity as a bombing attack against a church full of worshippers on Christmas, or on any Sunday. In recent years, we’ve seen the rise of just such attacks on churches in Egypt, Iraq, and Nigeria. Nigeria’s Catholic bishops report that some 200 individuals, mostly Catholic worshippers, were killed in coordinated Christmas bombings in 2011. In Iraq, there have been 70 documented church bombings over the past eight years.

Turkey, a democracy and NATO member, often held out as a model for the Arab Spring, was put on the Uscirf CPC recommendation list for the first time this year.

This may surprise some. After all, Turkey’s methods of religious control and repression stand in contrast to the bloody, un-self-conscious crackdowns found in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and North Korea.

These days, Turkey uses more sophisticated, subtler measures that are resulting in the elimination of its Christian and non-Muslim minorities. The cudgel is a dense tangle of bureaucratic restrictions that thwart the ability of churches to perpetuate themselves and, in some cases, even to meet together for worship.

Turkey’s Ambassador Tan predictably protested the listing as “unfair.” More surprisingly, after the State Department was tipped off by a Uscirf commissioner who was appointed by Pres. Obama, assistant secretary for human rights Michael Posner “reached out” on Turkey to another commissioner, resulting in his changing his mind after the report was put to bed. The Turkey decision resulted from a new analysis that will stir controversy.

As Uscirf chair Leonard Leo explained, “some of the countries we recommend for CPC designation maintain intricate webs of discriminatory rules, requirements and edicts that can impose tremendous burdens for members of religious minority communities, making it difficult for them to function and grow from one generation to the next, potentially threatening their existence.”

In casting my vote to put Turkey on the Uscirf black list, I could not forget the urgent words of a senior Christian religious leader in Turkey, who, out of fear, requested anonymity: “We are an endangered species here in Turkey.” Despite ten years of rule, despite its revolutionary measures in other spheres, such as in the economy, and despite its powerful mandate from the 2011 elections, AK Party’s government has failed to take critical actions in favor of religious freedom. Specifically, it has failed to rescind the regulatory regime that is contributing to its Christian minorities’ steady decline into statistical insignificance, now numbering a mere 0.15 percent.

Turkey’s Christian minorities struggle to find places in which they can worship, are denied seminaries in which to train future leaders, are barred from wearing clerical garb in public, see the trials of the murderers of their prominent members end with impunity, and, above all, lack the legal right to be recognized as churches so that their members can be assured of their rights to gather freely in sacred spaces for religious marriages, funerals, and baptisms, and otherwise carry out the full practice of their respective religions.

Turkey’ s laws, aimed at promoting extreme secular nationalism, also encourage a culture of animosity toward Christians, who are seen to undermine “Turkishness,” despite Christianity’ s 2,000-year presence there. Even starting a discussion about the genocide of Christians that occurred 100 years ago is a criminal offense in Turkey. Armenian editor Hrant Dink, who was assassinated in 2006, was himself convicted of “insulting Turkishness” for trying to do so.

Last year marked the 40th year that the Greek Orthodox seminary of Halki remained closed and in government hands. The Greek Orthodox community now numbers less than 2,000, and remains unable to educate and train its clergy. Indeed, none of the Christians groups in Turkey is permitted to train its leaders in the country. The Armenian Church is anxious to train more priests, and, in 2006, petitioned the education minister to allow the establishment of a state university faculty on Christian theology including instruction by the Patriarchate. Their request was ignored again throughout the past year.

The Syriac Orthodox community continued to be denied permission to have a second church to accommodate its flock of 20,000 in Istanbul, where the group has gathered for security after having been driven by violence out of its traditional lands over the last century. In 2010, the Supreme Court had granted the state’ s treasury parts of the 1,600 year old Mor Gabriel monastery, a site that is a second Jerusalem for the Syriacs. In November 2011, the government removed from museum status St Sophia church in Iznik — where the first Christian Ecumenical Council had met in A.D. 325 — and turned it into a mosque.

In a recent interview, Protestant Association chair Zekai Tanyar expressed their frustrations with government meetings in trying to navigate the regulations to open a church:

These visits do not go beyond polite stalling. . . . Churches find themselves shuttled between municipalities and governorships in their search for a solution to this problem. Even if one municipality responds positively, often the state Governor does not give approval. Sometimes the authorities respond with ridiculous excuses saying “there are not enough Christians in the neighborhood.”  So are we supposed to do head counts and form ghettos?

Another describes the relentless pressure faced by Christian converts, who are officially supposed to be legal:

They have to contest for every inch of legal territory. They are constantly surveilled by national-security agencies. They have been threatened, attacked, hauled into court on bogus charges, and even brutally murdered by ultra-nationalists linked to a nationwide plot to destabilize the Turkish government. It is a disheartening, and sometimes dangerous, environment in which to worship and share one’s faith. Although many Turkish congregations meet quietly and safely on a Sunday, no group anywhere in the country meets without carefully taking the measure of each new person who walks through the door.

The AKP government points to some improvements for Christians, including the addition of worship services allowed for a particular church, citizenship for the leaders of another, and accurate national-identity cards for converts. But, overall, the downward trajectory continues for Turkey’s Christian communities.

* * *

I believe that Afghanistan, too, belongs in the ranks of the world’s worst religious persecutors. Apart from the depredations of the Taliban, Afghanistan’ s government under President Karzai fails to respect religious freedom, and its violations are egregious, ongoing, and systematic, thus meeting the statutory standard for CPC designation. The State Department’s recent religious-freedom report on Afghanistan found:

The government’s level of respect for religious freedom in law and in practice declined during the reporting period, particularly for Christian groups and individuals.

An example was the razing of that country’ s last remaining church after its 99-year lease was cancelled, as the State Department reported last September. This event did not draw the international protest that accompanied the Taliban’ s detonation of the Bamiyan Buddhist statues in 2001, but, with respect to the status of religious freedom, it is equally emblematic.

Afghanistan, therefore, has now joined the lonely company of hardline Saudi Arabia as a country with no churches. The millions of Christians in Afghanistan, including some very beleaguered and oft-jailed converts, must hide their faith and seek the protection and secrecy of walled embassy compounds to pray in community.

Furthermore, we learn from the State Department report that, in addition to Christians, particular “targets of discrimination and persecution” are Hindu and Sikh groups.

The one synagogue, located in Kabul, is shuttered because Jews dare not venture there.

The Uscirf report itself states:

Conditions for religious freedom are exceedingly poor for dissenting members of the majority faith and for minority religious communities. The Afghan constitution fails explicitly to protect the individual right to freedom of religion or belief and allows other fundamental rights to be superseded by ordinary legislation. It also contains a repugnancy clause stating that no law can be contrary to the tenets of Islam, which the government has interpreted to limit fundamental freedoms. Individuals who dissent from the prevailing orthodoxy regarding Islamic beliefs and practices are subject to legal action that violates international standards, for example prosecutions for religious crimes such as apostasy and blasphemy. In addition, the Afghan government remains unable, as well as at times unwilling, to protect citizens against violence and intimidation by the Taliban and other illegal armed groups.

The Afghan government’s slide into extreme intolerance accelerated this month when, at the behest of his senior Islamic advisers, President Karzai publicly backed their statement that women should not mingle with men in workplaces, schools or other areas of daily life, and should not travel without a male relative, according to a March 6 BBC report.

For anyone concerned about human rights and religious freedom, the Uscirf report is unsettling but important reading.

— Nina Shea is a commissioner on the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom, and director of Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.

State Dept.’s Disgraceful Censorship of Report Blacklisting Turkey

[The US Government has been protecting Turkey for many years, as previously documented by Sibel Edmonds.  This report, documenting anti-Christian prejudice and discrimination should have all God-fearing Christians up in arms–Oh, I forgot….Christians don’t do that sort of thing.  Christian submission to any affront flung at them is consistent with the “turn the other cheek” philosophy, but let anybody say one word against the Jews and they are all ready to go for the torches and pitch forks.  This is the hallmark of Christian hypocrisy and the primary reason why Obama’s policy of double-standards is accepted by the American majority.  There is no American morality, except when it conveniently provides a mask to hide our evil deeds or those of our partners in crime like Turkey.]

State Dept.’s Disgraceful Censorship of Report Blacklisting Turkey

Harut Sassounian

BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN

Each passing day brings new revelations of the Obama administration’s shameful schemes to cover up Turkish misconduct.

The latest scandal involves the State Department’s covert attempt to alter the contents of a report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), condemning the Turkish government’s violations of the religious rights of Christian minorities. USCIRF is an independent bipartisan federal agency established by the U.S. Congress to make “recommendations unburdened by foreign policy considerations other than the defense of religious freedom,” according to a Commission member.

The Commission issued a lengthy report on March 20, outlining in great detail “the Turkish government’s systematic and egregious limitations on the freedom of religion or belief that affect all religious communities in Turkey, and particularly threaten the country’s non-Muslim religious minorities.”

The report recommended that the U.S. government designate Turkey as one of the world’s 16 worst violators of religious freedom, along with Burma, China, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.

The Commission’s recommendation sharply downgraded Turkey’s status from a previous “watch” list country to the black list of 16 “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC).

As expected, Turkish officials resorted to their usual disparaging tactics, rejecting the Commission’s findings. Far more troubling were the insidious actions of turkophiles in the State Department.  Nina Shea, one of the nine USCIRF commissioners, wrote an alarming article revealing how the Obama administration quietly pressured the commission to soften its condemnation of Turkey.

Ms. Shea disclosed to the National Review, a major national publication, that Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights Michael Posner had forced one of the commissioners to change his position in Turkey’s favor, after being tipped off by another commissioner, an Obama appointee, that the Commission had voted 5-4 to black list Turkey in its annual report. By then, the report had been issued and it was too late to alter the Commission’s recommendation, designating Turkey as a major violator of religious freedom. As required, the report was submitted to Pres. Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and Congressional leaders.

It was later revealed that Don Argue, President of Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington, was the Commissioner who was pressured into changing his mind on Turkey. Ironically, two days after this report was issued, the terms of service of Shea, Argue and three other commissioners ended.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry, reacting sharply to the Commission’s critical designation of Turkey, declared the report to be “null and void.” Turkey’s Ambassador to Washington, Namik Tan, described the report as “politically motivated.” The Commission’s chairman, Leonard Leo, shrugged off the Turkish protestations. “I don’t really care what the [Turkish] Foreign Minister thinks, because the report is not for him, it’s for the State Department,” Leo told the Turkish Zaman newspaper.

Regrettably, a State Dept. spokesperson persisted in covering up Turkey’s abusive record when he told EurasiaNet.org: “the Department does not support Turkey’s CPC designation, although it believes the country needs to do more to expand religious freedom.”

The Commission’s report included a long list of grave charges, accusing the Turkish government of:

– imposing “burdensome regulations,” denying “full legal status to religious groups, [and] violating the religious freedom rights of all religious communities.”

– interfering with “minority religious communities’ affairs; societal discrimination and occasional violence against religious minorities; limitations on religious dress; and anti-Semitism in Turkish society and media.”

– denying “non-Muslim communities the rights to train clergy, offer religious education, and own and maintain places of worship.”

– continuing longstanding policies that “threaten the survivability and viability of minority religious communities in Turkey.”

– restricting the religious freedom of “the Greek, Armenian, and Syriac Orthodox Churches, the Roman Catholic and protestant Churches, and the Jewish community as well as for the majority Sunni Muslim community and the country’s largest minority, the Alevis.”

The report described in great detail the restrictions imposed on the Armenian community, including the Turkish government’s prohibition of training new clergy, and its interference “in the selection process of the Armenian Patriarchate’s religious leadership.”

The Commission recommended that the U.S. government urge Turkey to “abolish Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code which restricts the freedom of thought and expression and negatively affects the freedom of religion or belief.” The report also acknowledged that “even starting a discussion on genocide of Christians that occurred 100 years ago is a criminal offense in Turkey.”

A person who publicly denigrates Turkish Nation, the State of the Republic of Turkey, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, the Government of the Republic of Turkey or the judicial bodies of the State [or military or security structures ], shall be sentenced a penalty of imprisonment for a term of six months and two years.

Ironically, after meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan in South Korea on March 26, Pres. Obama told the media: “I congratulated the Prime Minister on the efforts that he has made within Turkey to protect religious minorities!” It is shameful that unscrupulous U.S. officials are treating a federal agency’s painstaking research and solid recommendations with such contempt!

On the Brink of Third World War

On the Brink of Third World War

By Brig Nadir Mir

2012 onwards, the world is on the brink of Third World War. All sane and peace loving men would pray and strive that it is averted. For the horoscope of the times point towards a global catastrophe in the making. The guns of August 1914 – 1st World War paled in front of the Panzer Blitzkrieg of September 1939 Second World War. The Third World War during Cold War was averted between NATO and Warsaw Pact Forces. If war breaks out in 2012 onwards, Nukes shall speak and tragically billions may die. If there is war, it will most likely spread to be global plus nuclear, and without method in the madness. This apocalyptic scenario may yet come to pass, unless it is stopped in its tracks.

Opposing Alliances. US globalists (left over Neocons, Military – Industrial complex and their ilk) led NATO still want to dominate the world (despite their disaster in Iraq – Afghanistan). It is not only that the Western World’s global dominance stands challenged, but the march of history may be reversed. From the 1500’s (seafaring age) scientific discoveries, industrialization, political revolutions, colonialism, and technology ascendency, the world has been controlled by western powers. British Empire, Napoleon’s France, Hitler’s Germany and more recently USA have all been part of the Western world’s bid for global hegemony or control. Now the west is really in decline. USA the great power, land of mass production faces economic stagnation if not full decline. EU faces its own economic predicament. Some Europeans and Americans find the idea of a powerful Germany leading Europe (a natural process) as unacceptable so far. Two World Wars were fought among other reasons to prevent Germany from its rightful place under the sun. An Intra European conflict may be brewing for leadership of Europe. Even as US – NATO alliance conflicts with the dialectic alliance Russia – China. 

US Geo strategy has been embroiled in Afghanistan and Iraq, but now seeks to extend the war to Iran – Pakistan. Of course the real war is against Russia – China, the opposing alliance. Washington sees China rising (US trying to contain it from Pacific to Indian Ocean) Russia resurgent, Islamic world defiant (with Arab Spring likely to turn Anti west,) Israel endangered, besides Western economic decline.

American politics for 2012 and the Presidential Elections are upping the war ante (forcing President Obama to strike Iran or support Israel in doing so) or risk losing his reelection. Delhi seeks US Power to denuke, balkanize, deIslamize Pakistan, before US departure from Afghanistan region. Israel is straining on the leash before Iran develops the Nuclear Arsenal. This will change the strategic balance followed by Nuclear Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt etc.

In Afghanistan US seeks to retain a (25000 strong force) SOF/Air Force for denuclearization of Iran – Pakistan. It may seek independence of Baluchistan (with Indian support.) A clash with Pakistan is likely though not inevitable. Delhi wants to use American Power to fight Pakistan (but absurdly believes it can escape the nuclear conflagration). The war with Iran is even nearer 2012. US – NATO may attack Iran followed by Pakistan or both together. An Israeli attack on Iran is even more likely and Indian attack on Pakistan (Cold Start) always remains a possibility.

Russia – China are Allies against US – NATO Geo strategy (Iran and Pakistan are joining this alliance but also the Battle Space.) China is rising economically, Russia is resurgent strategically. After Iraq, Afghanistan, they have seen Libya humbled by NATO power. The US –NATO model  of regime change by sponsoring local militants – Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, in Libya (NATO trained anti Gaddafi Rebels), Syria (Syrian Rebels plus ex Libyan Rebels ) In Iran (non Persian ethnic groups, anti regime Diaspora ) in Pakistan (instead of regime change, keeping pliant puppets in power, or sponsoring  Baluch rebels against Pakistan.) In Russia, President Putin himself has accused the US of instigating opponents of United Russia. In China, using India for fermenting trouble in Xinjiang, Tibet etc. All this is unifying the alliance of Heart land powers Russia –China and critical Rim land state actors Iran – Pakistan into an Anti US – NATO alliance. But events are moving too fast. The Mayan Prophesy of 2012 catastrophic year approaches. US – NATO-India clash with Pakistan or US – NATO- Israel clash with Iran will lead by default or design to multi regional war going Global.

The combined Geopolitical space of Pakistan – Afghanistan –Iran – Iraq (backed by) Russia – China is beyond the US – NATO reach (It has already over reached) Putin’s reported warning to his generals, ‘Prepare for Armageddon’,must   be taken seriously. Putin is a great leader in the tradition of RussianHistory. China has already alerted its Navy in the Pacific. North Korea can always do the unpredictable, more so now with the young Kim in power!

US – NATO war against Iran could be catastrophic, but against Pakistan it could be dooms day! US – NATO may have Turkish/Saudi support against Syria but in Pakistan’s case both Saudi Arabia – Turkey will support Pakistan. In fact War against Pakistan is very complicated plus suicidal!

Firstly Pakistan is neither threatening nor attacking anybody. It is on high moral ground, despite US – propaganda on militants to nuke insecurity!

Secondly Pakistan will be defended by its Soldiers and People. (190 million despite US – Indian attempts to divide them on different lines).

Thirdly Pakistan will defend itself at any level – sub conventional (asymmetrical), conventional (armed forces) above conventional (nuclear –WMD)

Fourthly There will be no foreign inspired civil war in Pakistan. Pakistanis are united to defend the mother land. Even militants are on the wane or will fight foreign invaders. A few Baluch rebels are being instigated by Delhi – Neocons. (The Baluch should be appeased by Islamabad). All major and minor political parties and people want an end to the Afghan War and peace in Pakistan.

Fifthly Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Russia will support Pakistan even for different Geopolitical reasons.

Sixthly A low intensity war in Geopolitical black hole of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq will defeat US – NATO (with war weary public, declining economy at home). A perfect catastrophe! A conventional war, more so on two fronts for Pakistan (US – NATO strike in the west, and Indian Cold Start in the east) will quickly reach nuclear threshold. If Pakistan is being destroyed by enemy fire power plus nukes it will strike back into India and attacking forces / region. Loose nukes from a destroyed Pakistan could explode in Israel – western cities leading to a nuclear retaliation chain cycle. The war going Global, nuclear destructive and radioactive. The Russian view that attack on Pakistan with lead to Thermonuclear War was in this context.

A war the US led NATO cannot win. With hundreds of millions or billions dead only a sick, demented man could term it as a victory. The real winner of the Second World War was USA whose homeland was untouched, and rose to become the sole super power. If there are any victors, it would be Russia – China unless the war involves them directly (something which the globalists hope to achieve – lure Russia – China by attacking Iran).

The Arab Spring – Muslim World would revolt in Anti Americanism as war with Iran – Pakistan and carnage becomes apparent. The western homeland and initiators of attack will be burnt by the flames they help ignite themselves (albeit radioactive fires).

It is near midnight. Geopolitics of Peace is the solution. The US – NATO must relent on Afghanistan, of course no war with Iran and no interference in Baluchistan. The alternative is too horrible to contemplate.

Besides the innocent people of Iran and Pakistan, the cultured people in Europe and good hearted, charity giving, amiable folks in USA are being duped by their Neocons and hawks plus globalists. Shocked when the bastion of capitalism, Wall Street came under siege and fearing rapid collapse, war abroad is their illogical choice. Even in Israel, half the population is against the coming war. Over all the good Jewish people, with their historical sense of survival seek peace and security. Pakistan is not anti Semitic, but has deep sympathy with people in Palestine. Still peace in the Middle East would be welcome to all. The American globalists however are adamant to drive the American Titanic into the global iceberg. But this war will be self defeating for all.

A new paradigm shift is needed, rather than beating the drums of war. Moscow under President Putin has a great role to deter the American war hawks, aided by the peace loving Chinese. The Germans and other anti war Europeans, besides the good people of USA must join hands to abort this global conflagration. Russia’s key role in global peace, security for Israel, no attack on Iran, establishment of Palestine State, US – NATO exodus from Afghanistan, no interference in Baluchistan, return of Kashmir to Pakistan, US – China amity, all have to be part of Geopolitical peacemaking and war avoidance.

The alternative global nuclear war is too apocalyptic to contemplate.

Robert Blake: We call upon the Central Asia to end the relationship with Iran

Robert Blake: We call upon the Central Asia to end the relationship with Iran

Nargis Hamrabaeva

U.S. Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia, Robert Blake, who is in Dushanbe as part of participation in the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA-V), the evening of March 27 answered questions from journalists.

The demarche of the U.S. delegation during Ahmadinejad speech

We were disappointed by the statement of Iranian President Ahmadinejad at the conference RECCA-V in Dushanbe, which was aimed at regional integration. He used this opportunity to criticize the United States, to make unsubstantiated claims that call into question our policy. So we decided to leave the hall during his speech.

U.S. will not abandon the "Manas"?

We are grateful to President of Kyrgyzstan Atambaev for what he has agreed to extend the contract on the use of "Manas" by the U.S. Army until mid-2014.Kyrgyzstan continues to support the Transit Center "Manas" to send the goods to coalition forces in Afghanistan. We intend to continue negotiations with the government Atambayev, and hope that they will be productive.

U.S. is not going to open military bases in other countries in the region.

The fate of the U.S. Munitions

United States began withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan. Part of the units will pass through the Northern Distribution Network through the territory of Central Asia.

Yes, some states in the region have expressed interest in purchasing American gear and equipment. All of our military attaches in the region, which is responsible for coordination and cooperation, discuss the matter with his colleagues.

However, we have limitations, not all material and equipment may be transferred to interested countries. We are ready to discuss this issue under the laws of the United States.

Future negotiations on Iran                             

President Obama recently met in Seoul with the leaders of China and Russia and discussed with them, as well as other partners in the context of security threats from Iran’s nuclear program. We and our partners have agreed that negotiations in the 5 +1 "(" six "of international mediators, which includes Russia, China, USA, France, Britain and Germany, since 2003 together with the IAEA that Iran is seeking the suspension of work uranium enrichment, which can pose a threat to the nuclear non-proliferation. negotiations were interrupted in 2009 when the Board of Governors of the IAEA condemned Iran for building a second plant to enrich uranium and called on Tehran to confirm that "no decisions were made on the construction of other nuclear facilities that do not declared agency. "The U.S. and other Western countries accuse Iran of developing nuclear weapons under the guise of peaceful nuclear energy program. Tehran denies the charges, saying its nuclear program is really aimed solely at using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes – Ed.) should soon begin. EU countries are making great efforts to resume negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, and we intend to determine the exact date of their conduct.

We also have time for a diplomatic solution, but this time coming to an end.

U.S. calls on countries in the region to support sanctions against Iran in Washington and refuse to trade and other relations with this country, in order to put pressure on Tehran to show solidarity with the international community over concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.

Cooperation in the fight against drugs

We must work together to counter the drug threat coming from Afghanistan, because drugs fuel the financial terrorists, including the Taliban. We are working productively with many countries in Central Asia through various projects in order to stop drug trafficking. One of the most successful examples – Cooperation with the Government of Tajikistan. We would also like to work with Russia in this direction in Central Asia.

Revolution @State—State Dept. Takes Control of Western Media

Revolution @State:

The Spread of Ediplomacy

Executive summary

The US State Department has become the world’s leading user of
ediplomacy. Ediplomacy now employs over 150 full-time personnel
working in 25 different ediplomacy nodes at Headquarters. More than
900 people use it at US missions abroad.
Ediplomacy is now used across eight different program areas at State:
Knowledge Management, Public Diplomacy and Internet Freedom
dominate in terms of staffing and resources. However, it is also being
used for Information Management, Consular, Disaster Response,
harnessing External Resources and Policy Planning.
In some areas ediplomacy is changing the way State does business. In
Public Diplomacy, State now operates what is effectively a global
media empire, reaching a larger direct audience than the paid
circulation of the ten largest US dailies and employing an army of
diplomat-journalists to feed its 600-plus platforms.
In other areas, like Knowledge Management, ediplomacy is finding
solutions to problems that have plagued foreign ministries for
centuries.
The slow pace of adaptation to ediplomacy by many foreign ministries
suggests there is a degree of uncertainty over what ediplomacy is all
about, what it can do and how pervasive its influence is going to be.
This report – the result of a four-month research project in Washington
DC – should help provide those answers.  (Read HERE)

Majority of Americans against war in Afghanistan: Survey

Majority of Americans against war in Afghanistan: Survey

image

WASHINGTON: Support for the war in Afghanistan has dropped sharply in the US following a series of violent incidents in the war-torn country, according to a new poll.
More than two-thirds of those polled, 69 per cent, are against war in Afghanistan, as against 53 per cent four months ago, according to the nationwide poll conducted by The New York Times and CBS News.
The increased disillusionment was even more pronounced when respondents were asked their impressions of how the war was going.
"The poll found that 68 per cent thought the fighting was going "somewhat badly" or "very badly," compared with 42 per cent who had those impressions in November," The New York Times said.
The Times/CBS News poll was consistent with other surveys this month that showed a drop in support for the war, it said, adding that in The Washington Post/ABC News poll, 60 per cent of respondents said the war in Afghanistan had not been worth the fighting, while 57 per cent in a Pew Research Centre poll said that the US should bring home American troops as soon as possible.
In a Gallup/USA Today poll, 50 per cent of respondents said the United States should speed up the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
According to The New York Times/CBS News poll, negative impressions of the war have grown among Republicans as well as Democrats.

Imperial Overreach and the Failures of An All-Volunteer Army

Afghan killings point to the limits of an all-volunteer army

By Jules Witcover

Baltimore Sun

The American soldier accused of massacring 17 people in a solo rampage on a remote southern Afghanistanvillage faces multiple charges of murder and attempted murder. Whisked out of the country by the Army, he is now being held at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

With the Afghan government clamoring for justice, nothing less seems appropriate, pending the thorough Army investigation into the horrible episode in which nine of the fatalities are said to have been children and others women. At least six other villagers were wounded.

The defendant, 38-year-old Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, was serving his fourth combat tour in the Middle East. He walked out of his small outpost in Kandahar province on March 11 and, after the attack, returned and turned himself in.

According to his lawyer, John Henry Browne, Mr. Bales says he doesn’t remember some of the things that occurred in the attack. He has said he suffered a concussion earlier in Iraq, when a vehicle in which he was riding rolled over, but that he never sought or received medical treatment at the time.

That observation, and the lawyer’s subsequent comment that "there’s definitely brain injury," suggests a possible line of exculpation other than a defense of innocence in the case. Meanwhile, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has demanded that American counterinsurgency forces stay out of such Afghan villages.

U.S. Marine Gen. John R. Allen, commander of all allied forces in Afghanistan, told Congress the other day an investigation will be held into Sergeant Bales’ military unit and the headquarters supervising it. At the same time, court and personal records on Mr. Bales in Washington State, where his home military base is located near Tacoma, have surfaced indicating incidents of past scuffles with police.

None of this, however, goes to a more pertinent question that cannot acquit the accused soldier of personal responsibility but that needs better answers from the U.S. government: Why was this soldier, or any member of the American armed forces for that matter, sent into a fourth deployment in a hot combat zone, with the general recognition of the psychological as well as physical pressures involved?

One obvious answer is that individuals who join the all-volunteer military have to expect they will be assigned as military circumstances dictate. Another is that with the U.S. militarystretched thin in two wars, for more than a decade in Afghanistan and nearly as long in Iraq, multiple combat deployments have been inevitable.

The latter point reinforces the reality that the burden of two wars, one of them a war of choice in Iraq, continues to fall on a very narrow segment of the American population — the men and women in uniform and their families left back home. Many of them have had to endure multiple separations, with multiple personal, financial and psychological complications, over a longer time than ever before in American history.

The Civil War lasted nearly four years, and actual U.S. combat inWorld War I lasted less than two years, in World War II less than four years, in Korea three years and in Vietnam about nine — all of shorter duration than the current engagement in Afghanistan. In World War II especially, Americans enlisted or were drafted for "the duration," and those sent to Europe and the Pacific seldom got home before it was over.

The obvious if not easily achieved solution is to get out of the war in Iraq — a pledge Barack Obama made as a presidential nominee in 2008 — and to wrap up the war in Afghanistan. As president, he claims to have ended the U.S. combat role in the former and to be working toward the latter.

Meantime, the unintended consequences of continued American foreign-policy involvement not only impede that objective but also exact a heavier price on those in uniform and their kin who are obliged to pursue it.

At a minimum, the Pentagon should be addressing this inequitable matter of multiple deployments to combat zones. And Congress needs to prod the Obama administration to put a limit on how much is demanded of the limited number of military men and women whose lives are being repeatedly disrupted, while the rest of us go about our normal business.

Jules Witcover is a syndicated columnist and former long-time writer for The Baltimore Sun. His latest book is "Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption" (William Morrow). His email isjuleswitcover@comcast.net.

Turkmen Dictator Setting-Up Make Believe Two-Party System

Turkmenistan set to end 1-party rule

ASHGABAT – The Associated Press

Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. Reuters photo

Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. Reuters photo

Turkmenistan’s government says it plans to create two new political parties, bringing an end to the authoritarian nation’s current one-party system.

TDH state news agency cited Deputy Prime Minister Sapardurdy Toyliyev as saying Monday that work is in progress on drawing up the founding charters of agrarian and entrepreneur parties.

While those parties will nominally end the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan’s monopoly in the former Soviet nation’s parliament, absolute power will continue to be wielded by President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov.

The state’s involvement in the parties’ formation also quashes any prospect of their genuine autonomy.
Opposition to the government has been ruthlessly stamped out since independence in 1991.

Parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2013.

Fake Friendships, Dictators and Dollars

Friends and Dictators

Cozying up to Central Asia’s Most Brutal Regimes

Tara McKelvey

title

An Afghan guard stands watch at the Friendship Bridge, the only border crossing between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. The bridge is a key link in the northern supply route to U.S. troops in Central Asia. / Mark O’Donald, U.S. Navy

The Turkish Airlines flight to Tashkent, Uzbekistan was scheduled to leave at 9:25 on an October night, and dozens of people, nearly all of whom were holding Uzbek passports, stood at the gate. Gripping the handles of bulging plastic bags filled with candy and gifts, they stared at an electronic board announcing a Moscow-bound flight that had been unexpectedly assigned the same gate.

“LAST CALL” for Moscow, the board flashed in Turkish and English at 30-second intervals. As time passed, the announcement began to seem less urgent. Finally, the last passenger got on the Moscow airplane, and officials began ushering the Uzbek travelers through.

For weeks leading up to the trip, I’d had restless nights full of frightening dreams. For Uzbeks, however, real life can be as haunting as any nightmare.

President Islam Karimov runs the country, a sprawling parcel of the former Soviet empire, like a fiefdom. In 2002, two religious dissidents were boiled to death, according to a State Department report. In May 2005, Uzbek troops shot and killed hundreds of protestors in the eastern city of Andijan. A witness named Juravoi Abdulaev showed a Radio Free Europe reporter, Gafurjan Yuldashev, one of the resulting mass graves. After Yuldashev filed a story about the mass graves, Abdulaev was stabbed to death. A human rights investigator told me that sources he interviewed following the Andijan massacre were later tracked down by authorities, imprisoned, and tortured.

Some Uzbeks, such as Abdulaev and those interviewed by the human rights investigator, have been brave enough to speak openly about their experiences, and they paid a price. Others prefer to speak with journalists discretely. As I stood at the gate, I held my passport and a notebook filled with the names of both kinds: dissidents who had been outspoken about human rights abuses, along with others who were willing to talk as long as they could remain anonymous. The list included activists, economists, a former government official who had resigned in protest after the Andijan massacre, one woman whose relative, a political leader, had been assassinated, and four journalists.

The Turkish official at the gate held up my passport. He had dirty blond hair and glasses, and a yellow cord dangling around his neck. He put the passport down and looked at me. “I hope you have another visa,” he said. “This one isn’t any good.” He pointed to a smudged date in my passport and asked me to stand to the side. Businessmen and mothers clutching small children filed past me, showing him their passports as I waited.

What would happen if officials in Uzbekistan knew I was a journalist—what would happen to my sources?

Abruptly he turned toward me. “Do you have a letter of invitation?” he asked.

I thought about what would happen if he and his colleagues in Uzbekistan knew I was a journalist entering their country on a tourist visa, about what would happen to the people on my list. “No,” I lied.

He stepped over to me. “If you get on that plane and go to Tashkent,” he said, waving his hand toward the jet, “they will deport you. They will send you back on this plane.”

I might have argued, but I lost my nerve that night. I would have been fine, but what about the names in my notebook?
Things were supposed to be getting better in Central Asia, and Americans, in part, were supposed to be responsible.

Since late 2008 the United States has been developing the Northern Distribution Network, a transportation grid running through Uzbekistan, neighboring Kyrgyzstan, and other nations. The military uses the route to transport food and supplies to troops in Afghanistan. In the process the U.S. military has been buying bottled water, plastic forks, and other items made in factories along the way, spending more than $62 million in fiscal year 2010.

The northern supply route is vital to the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan because the southern one, which runs through Pakistan, is frequently bombed and closed down. Central Asia offers a more stable alternative. Roughly 60 percent of goods transported to the troops in Afghanistan come via the northern route, and military officials say that share will increase over the next two years.

U.S. officials have argued that investments in the transportation grid will improve the lives of people in Central Asia. Officials have even suggested that the new partnerships with Central Asian leaders could help improve their records on human rights. “Closer cooperation” might force “progress on human rights” and allow “the regime to loosen its vise on civil society,” Richard B. Norland, the ambassador to Uzbekistan, wrote in a January 2010 diplomatic cable obtained by WikiLeaks.

But Americans have long struggled with competing impulses when dealing with autocratic leaders in strategically important regions, trying to balance the desire to promote democracy and human rights with the need to maintain security and access to bases.

In Central Asia, at least, the military imperatives seem to have won out. When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave an International Women of Courage award to an Uzbek human rights activist in 2009, the Uzbek foreign minister made what Norland called an “implicit threat” to suspend deliveries along the supply route if Americans continued to raise the issue of human rights. Afterward Norland told his colleagues in Washington to curb their complaints.

Since then Americans have had much less to say about human rights in Central Asia, while investing even more heavily in the region. U.S. investment in Central Asian business, as part of the commitment to the supply route, jumped from $2.7 million in fiscal year 2009 to $90.6 million in fiscal year 2011, according to Navy Rear Admiral Ron MacLaren, who directs the Defense Logistics Agency’s Joint Contingency Acquisition Support Office, which helps to secure supplies for troops in Afghanistan.

Despite the promise of “heretofore unimagined economic advances” for the people of Central Asia, as scholars at the Center for Strategic and International Studies put it in a December 2009 report, little of the investment has gone to local business people.

“Who benefits? Of course, it’s corrupted elites,” says Baktybek Beshimov, a former member of parliament in Kyrgyzstan. He acknowledges that some of the capital has gone to local businesses but argues that “a huge amount of this money goes to corrupt leaders” and that the funding “leads to the escalation of corruption in Central Asian countries.”

These countries’ leaders have been cracking down harder on human rights and democracy advocates, while Americans have done little to stop them. “In a time of crisis, the American administration can be blind to human rights abuses,” Beshimov says, “and instead they are thinking more about the military or security priorities.”

When it comes to official abuses, Beshimov speaks from experience. As a parliamentarian in the late 2000s, he investigated human rights violations, including the torture of dissidents. Eventually he was placed under state surveillance, and then, he says, “They decided just to kill me.” On March 3, 2009, Beshimov was driving in a chauffeured official vehicle on his way to the capital city of Bishkek. Traffic police stopped the car, claimed the chauffeur was speeding, and asked him to sign papers acknowledging that he had. The police then stopped the car two more times on the same road. Beshimov was annoyed—and suspicious.

Since building a supply route through Central Asia, Americans have had much less to say about human rights there.

As they approached a tunnel on a mountain road, Beshimov saw one of his assistants flagging them down from the side of the road. They pulled over, and the assistant told him that two trucks were idling on the other side of the tunnel. One of the drivers planned to block off the road, his assistant explained, while the other would force Beshimov’s car into a ravine. The chauffeur’s admission that he had been speeding would ensure that blame for the incident fell to him—just another out-of-control driver. Beshimov took another route.

The setup was familiar. “Staged car accidents,” Ambassador Tatiana Gfoeller called them in a March 2009 diplomatic cable. In the cable, she described speculation about the “political assassination” of Presidential Chief of Staff Medet Sadyrkulov, an opposition leader who had been killed in a car crash under mysterious circumstances less than two weeks after the police stopped Beshimov.

Now a visiting scholar at Harvard and MIT, Beshimov wishes Americans showed more caution in their partnerships with Central Asian leaders. The problem isn’t only that U.S. officials are enabling violent strongmen. As Beshimov explains, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is consolidating power over Central Asia, and the supply route is playing into his hands. “Economically, it’s very beneficial for Russia,” Beshimov says. “It also offers them the chance to use the Network as blackmail against the U.S. during times of crisis in the relationship.”

Indeed, American officials sometimes seem naïve, or willfully blind, in their dealings with Central Asian leaders. Military officers say they hope that corrupt leaders are not siphoning off funds from U.S. contracts, but they also admit that they cannot be sure. “There’s no guarantee that there isn’t something happening behind closed doors,” Admiral MacLaren told me, “until something breaks, and then we take appropriate action.”

MacLaren and other officials rely on the media to uncover graft and corruption in the contracting process. Yet journalists have faced obstacles in reporting on the government, and there are few independent media outlets in Uzbekistan. Researchers from organizations such as Human Rights Watch have been forced to leave the country.

The Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was murdered in Moscow in 2006, had a finely tuned sense of the role that Westerners played in human rights debates in her country. Russian authorities, she argued, paid attention when Westerners spoke openly about human rights abuses and were more likely to release imprisoned human rights activists. But when Westerners said little, the authorities treated activists more harshly.

A similar situation seems to be unfolding in Uzbekistan. From 2006 to 2008, the pressure was on: the European Union sanctioned Uzbekistan for refusing to allow an international inquiry into the Andijan massacre, and American officials were systematically raising the subject of human rights. At least 24 prisoners were released in those years, according to Human Rights Watch’s Steve Swerdlow. Since work on the supply route began, just six have been freed. In 2009, after diplomats softened their statements about human rights, Uzbekistan’s independent bar associations were abolished and replaced by the state-controlled Chamber of Lawyers. Human rights lawyers had their licenses taken away, Swerdlow explains. He was kicked out of the country on Christmas Eve, 2010. An official letter said his organization was violating Uzbek law, though which law was not specified.

The economic consequences of the new U.S. policy in Central Asia are significant, though it is difficult, if not impossible, to get a proper accounting of the supply route contracts, the profit that is being generated, or the impact that these investments are having on the people of Uzbekistan and other Central Asian countries. It is clear, however, that the human rights situation has not improved as American officials intended. By now it seems to have taken a turn for the worse.

New Phase In Afghan War, More Soldiers Killed by Afghan Army, Eleven Suicide Vests Found At Defense Ministry

Bomb plot foiled: Cache of suicide vests found in Afghan defense ministry

By NBC News’ Cheryll Simpson and msnbc.com staff

KABUL, Afghanistan — A number of Afghan national army soldiers have been arrested inside the country’s defense ministry over a foiled suicide bomb plot, officials told NBC News.

The soldiers were held on Monday afternoon along with 11 suicide bomb vests in a guard box in the building in the capital, Kabul, army officials said on Tuesday.


Afghan news web site Khaama also reported the arrests, saying the incident raises fresh concerns over infiltration of militants among the country’s Afghan security forces.

There were no further details immediately available.

Tim Marshall, foreign editor of UK channel Sky News, said that the incident was serious, and showed that the Taliban are determined to chase NATO out of the country.

“The fact that these arrests took place within the walls of the defense ministry illustrates the level of insurgent penetration within the Afghanistan establishment and just tells you — gives a signal of — what is likely to happen when NATO leaves,” he said.

The arrests came on the same day that at least three NATO service members were shot dead by Afghan security forces in two separate attacks.

A gunman wearing an Afghan army uniform killed two NATO troops in southern Afghanistan, while another was shot in eastern Afghanistan by an alleged member of the Afghan Local Police.

The attacks brought to 16 the number of NATO-led forces killed so far this year in what appeared to be attacks by members of Afghan forces.

Meanwhile, support for the war in Afghanistan has dropped sharply among both Republicans and Democrats, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll published Tuesday.

The survey found that more than two-thirds of those polled — 69 percent — thought that the United States should not be at war in Afghanistan, the New York Times reported.

Just four months ago, 53 percent said that Americans should no longer be fighting in the conflict, it said.

It added that the increased disillusionment was even more pronounced when respondents were asked their impressions of how the war was going. The poll found that 68 percent thought the fighting was going “somewhat badly” or “very badly,” compared with 42 percent who had those impressions in November.

The poll was conducted by telephone from March 21 to 25 with 986 adults nationwide.

Akbar Shinwari, NBC News in Kabul, and msnbc.com staff also contributed to this report.

Kyrgyzstan Under Atambaev Is Refuses To Be Assimilated for Free

“Kommersant”: Russia in Kyrgyzstan will require 75 percent of shares of new hydro

Ferghana

 Russia intends to obtain a review of the intergovernmental agreement with Kyrgyzstan to build hydroelectric more demanding in exchange for investments from 50 per cent stake in the future stations, and 75 percent, according to 26 MarchKommersant .

It is about the construction of Kambarata-1 (capacity – 1,9 GW) and the cascade hydropower plants on the Naryn River, the agreement on participation of Moscow which entered the Russian-Kyrgyz inter-governmental agreement signed in 2008.

Russia in a joint company with Kyrgyzstan “Kambarata-1” represents “Inter RAO UES”, which owns 50 percent of the shares.Construction of the station was estimated at $ 2 billion in 2008 suggested that Moscow will give the project a loan of $ 1.7 billion, but in 2010 Russia accused of Bishkek to the misuse of allocated under the agreement $ 450 million and suspended implementation of the agreement.

According to “Kommersant” , while on the Kambarata-1 were only a research project, the financing of the construction has not been resolved. Build Verhnenarynsky HPP was “RusHydro”.

This week in Bishkek, the delegation sent to the Ministry of Energy of Russia – in preparation for the revision of the intergovernmental agreement in the direction of increasing the share of the Russian side.

“The new agreement,” RAO “, and” RusHydro “would like to get away from the previously approved equal participation in relevant projects. “They believe that once they build these stations, the ratio of 50:50 will not reflect the real contribution of the parties. It is a fact that Russian companies should belong to 75 percent, and the Kyrgyz side to retain the position of minority partner “, – the “Kommersant” familiar with the negotiations, the Russian official.

Meanwhile, the source of the newspaper in the Kyrgyz leadership has called the new conditions “bondage and unacceptable.”

“We have already agreed to the scheme and have to go 50-50 on it. If Russia did not like something these agreements, this had to declare in 2008, but not to change the terms of the agreements backdated “- says the official.

Earlier, the president of Kyrgyzstan Atambaev said in an interview: “If you do not want to build, we have other interested persons. That’s what I just said, the Russian leadership. ”

The most likely candidate for the Kyrgyz energy assets is China is experiencing a great demand for electricity and are actively looking for projects of hydropower plants in Central Asia . In a recent interview, President Atambayev said that “to get to Beijing in the pocket” of his country was not afraid.

Recall that Moscow calls for revision of the treaty and the Kyrgyz torpedo factory “Dastan”: instead of the previously agreed 48 percent of assets in exchange for writing off the debt – $ 180 million Russian side intends to get 75 percent. Moscow motivates his desire to the fact that since 2009 the plant property devalued because of wear and tear, so the $ 180 million to write off the debt for him Russia is not ready. But Bishkek rejected the argument of the fall of prices, “Dastan” and the new proposals do not agree.

The international news agency “Fergana”

RECCA 2012 – Dushanbe

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

RECCA 2012 – Dushanbe

Overview of the Fifth Regional Economic Cooperation Conference for Afghanistan

26-27 March 2012 – Dushanbe

In engaging business leaders, senior government officials, civil society representatives, artists, and scholars, the Fifth Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan, presents an opportunity to translate the vision of a more stable and prosperous region through a stable and prosperous Afghanistan into a concrete action plan, with roots in both the “Kabul Process” and complementary regional initiatives, such as CAREC, SAARC, and ECO. Situated between recent conferences on Afghanistan in Istanbul and Bonn, as well as future conferences in 2012 in Chicago, Kabul, and Tokyo, RECCA V can advance shared economic interests through new approaches for regional economic cooperation. In particular, RECCA V aims to further the dialogue on establishing Afghanistan as a regional trade and transit hub. This will benefit its citizens and neighbors through a select number of targeted investments that unleash the talents of the business community and civil society.
The over-arching goal of regional cooperation in the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS) is to contribute to regional stability and prosperity by restoring Afghanistan’s central role as a land bridge – between Central Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and the Far East – for the exchange of commerce, culture, and ideas. Since 2005, Regional Economic Cooperation Conferences on Afghanistan, held in Kabul, New Delhi, Islamabad, and Istanbul, have sought to strengthen cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbors specific economic areas through informed policy discussions accompanied by high-level commitments. RECCA V will deepen this regional cooperation agenda by focusing attention on: i) Achieving Economic Development through Building Infrastructure (Transport and Energy); ii) Developing Human Resources though the Promotion of Vocational Education and Training; and iii) Advancing Investment, Trade, Transit, and Border Management through Cooperation between National and International Authorities.

To build consensus around concrete actions to overcome obstacles and foster mutual accountability, the Fifth Regional Economic Conference on Afghanistan will produce:

A Comprehensive Progress Report: This assessment will examine the degree to which earlier RECCA commitments are met, as well as identify gaps in regional economic cooperation.

The Dushanbe Declaration: The RECCA V Outcome Document will represent a consensus among Afghan government, business, and civil society leaders and their regional and donor partners on key principles, policy objectives, and actions for regional economic cooperation.

Summaries of Major Investment Priorities and Policies: Consistent with the sequencing of activities within the ANDS National Priority Programs, a select number of high-impact regional investment projects and trade & transit policies will be presented, including key economic performance indicators and suggestions to tackle implementation bottlenecks.

Launched during His Excellency President Hamid Karzai’s second inauguration address, delivered on November 2009, the Kabul Process seeks to facilitate Afghanistan’s transition away from aid dependency and conflict to a fiscally sustainable future at peace with itself and its neighbors. Through consultations with Foreign Ministers and other senior-level officials from more than 70 countries and international organizations, RECCA V will bring a complementary regional economic focus to the Kabul Process, thereby extending the reach of ANDS National Priority Programs endorsed at the July 2012 Tokyo Conference.
RECCA V Program Agenda

RECCA V Scholars Symposium Program

RECCA V Business Exhibition Program Agenda

RECCA V Projects with Brief Summaries

RECCA IV Progress Report Executive Summary

RECCA V Progress Report March 22

RECCA V – Regional Investment Projects

 

Fourth Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA IV)-Istanbul, 2-3 November 2010- The Istanbul Declaration
Working Group Paper on Economic Development (Agriculture)
Working Group Paper on Human Resource Development (Education and Vocational Training)
Working Group Paper on Infrastructure (Energy, Mines and Transport)
Working Group Paper on Economic Development (Labor Migration)
Small to Medium Enterprise Papers

Third Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan -Islamabad, 13-14 May 2009- The Islamabad Declaration

New Delhi Declaration

RECCA Secretariat center for Regional Cooperation Directorate General of Economic Affairs Ministry of Foreign Affairs Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Kabul Declaration on Regional Economic Cooperation

Kabul International Conference on Afghanistan- Prioritization and Implementation Plan, MID 2010- MID 2013- Volume I

Afghanistan National Development Strategy, Executive Summary 2008- 2013
Afghanistan the London Conference, 28 January 2010
 

RECCA V :  http://www.recca2012.tj

Ahmadinejad Tells the West, the Time of Colonialism Has Passed

Iran warns U.S.: Stop dictating world policy

Ahmadinejad says root of international problems is NATO’s ‘revival of colonialism’.

By Reuters

ahmadinejad - AP - December 6 2011 Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Photo by: AP

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Monday the United States could no longer dictate policy to the rest of the world and warned of growing instability in the West’s relations with Pakistan.

Ahmadinejad, speaking at a regional conference on Afghanistan, called for the immediate withdrawal of foreign troops from the country and proposed that NATO use part of its military budget to help revive the Afghan economy.

“NATO and the United States should change their policy because the time when they dictate their conditions to the world has passed,” Ahmadinejad said in a speech in Dushanbe, capital of the Central Asian republic of Tajikistan.

“It’s better to respect nations than to scare them and colonize them. The time of imperialism has long gone. Those who do not learn from the mistakes of history will be punished.”

The U.S. delegation to the conference, headed by Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake, left the hall when Ahmadinejad began to speak and returned after the conclusion of his speech.

Washington has spearheaded international efforts to isolate Iran, including several rounds of sanctions, over a nuclear program that Tehran says is for peaceful purposes only.

Israel and Western nations say Iran is moving towards a nuclear bomb that could change the regional balance of power. Ahmadinejad made no reference to Iran’s nuclear programme during his speech.

Speaking in Farsi, translated into Russian for conference participants in the former Soviet republic, Ahmadinejad said NATO policy in Afghanistan and other countries would make Western relations with Pakistan worse.

“Relations between NATO and Pakistan – their unsteadiness and instability will only grow,” he said. “The main reason for the difficulties in the world is the policy of NATO member countries, undertaken with the aim of reviving colonialism.”

Ahmadinejad said he believed Afghanistan was capable of running its own affairs, without the presence of foreign troops.

Most NATO combat troops are scheduled to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014. President Barack Obama said the massacre of 16 villagers by a U.S. soldier this month had made him more determined to get American troops out.

Calling for the immediate withdrawal of foreign troops, Ahmadinejad said: “The entire problem lies with NATO and with the policies of NATO members, most of all the United States, which entered Afghanistan under the guise of the war on terrorism and under the same banner is now surrounding India, Russia and China.”

The Iranian leader said NATO should help fund the revival of the Afghan economy by paying 25 percent of its military expenditure in Afghanistan, or 5 percent of the total military budget of NATO member countries, annually over the next decade.

He said Iran would offer technical and economic assistance to the country, including investment in education, healthcare and infrastructure projects.

A day earlier, he signed a declaration with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Tajik President Imomali Rakhmon to build a railway line across the three countries and increase supplies of Iranian oil products and natural gas.

Hiding Behind the Mask of the New Universal Bogeyman

[Whether it is the lunatic gunman, who suddenly finds a conversion to “al-Qaeda” (much like the atheist who finds conversion in the foxhole), or the government, which holds up the bogeyman of “al-Qaeda” to rally the mob to a new political witch-hunt, the motive remains the same–to use these murders to play on the sympathies and fears of the mob.  There were plenty of “lone wolf” fruitcakes before the American government invented the new bogeyman of “al-Qaeda.”   Attempts since then to unite all such cases behind the banner of Al-Q are separate steps in a long-term brainwashing project, which has so far managed to keep the entire world in silent mesmerization.  (If this claim was made about any other “Premier” spy agency, it would be a point of pride.  You know who I mean.)  Without this banner of fear, there would have been no place to hide the connections between the CIA and ALL terrorist organizations.  In this French connection, if the man had not been part of “Al-CIA-da,” then post-mortem efforts to paint him as such are being coordinated by the CIA.]   

Between Merah and the Taliban

 Alarabiya.net English

By ABDULLAH ISKANDAR

Abdullah Iskandar

Everything that has been leaked so far about Mohamed Merah, the young man responsible for the crimes committed in the Toulouse area, shows that he acted alone – even if he sought to engage in “Jihad” at the Pakistani-Afghan border. Despite the claim later made by an organization that supports Al-Qaeda of responsibility for Merah’s actions, it remains that the man of Algerian descent had a track record in France in which minor offenses mixed with heading towards “Jihad”.

These crimes have led to repercussions at the level of the French presidential campaign, and candidates have sought to make use of them in one direction or another, especially as Merah had openly declared himself to be a “Jihadist”, giving his actions a distinctive flavor and an attempt to link them to Islam, the second largest religion in France after Christianity. Furthermore, these crimes have contributed, after the killing of students at a Jewish school, to prompting the Israeli media machine to action on the issue of protecting Jews.

Perhaps Merah’s crimes would not have had such a broad impact, in France and abroad, had they not coincided with the presidential election campaign, and had he not targeted a Jewish school, after having targeted Muslim French soldiers of foreign descent.

Yet the case of Merah, whose death in turn aroused questions and criticism, remains within an inter-French framework, in effect confronting everyone in France with the sensitive issue of how one would move from a record of minor offenses to one of “Jihad”, and subsequently the issue of how “Jihad”, even for a small number of individuals, turns into a justification for committing grave crimes.

It is true that similar crimes have been committed in the past, especially those bloody bombings that have been carried out in different parts of the world, the most famous being the September 11 attacks in the United States, but these crimes fall within the framework of an overall plan and working strategy by Al-Qaeda – something within the framework of which Merah does not so far appear to have worked. In fact, his personal track record before moving to “Jihad” shows that he committed a number of minor offenses and thefts that led him to prison, and later deprived him of his dream of joining the French Army. It is only after his application in this respect was rejected that he moved to “Jihad”. And, after his return, constant surveillance by French intelligence did not reveal him to be in contact with any network or group, just as it did not show him to be unusually religious or an advocate of the “Jihad” he later claimed to be engaged in.

All of this points to the fact that “Jihad” in a case such as this merely represents a mechanism in an individual criminal track record. Opinion leaders among French Muslims have made sure to stress the necessity of distinguishing between Islam as a religion and these kinds of practices. Yet the confusion continues to stand, especially among Westerners who do not differentiate much between interpretations, fatwas and confessions. And such confusion might not be dispelled by mere passing statements made for the occasion, and then disappearing – only to resurface later in similar occasions.

Dispelling such confusion now requires us to actually confront the phenomenon, which is used to justify all sorts of crimes, not just in the West, but also in Muslim countries themselves.

Some Muslim countries have applied themselves to combating such terrorism, hunting down terrorism networks and exerting efforts at the security and political levels in order to defend against it. Yet the phenomenon persists in various forms, despite what has been said about the weakness that has afflicted Al-Qaeda after the killing of its founder, Osama Bin Laden. This confirms the need to confront it, especially in terms of the means and methods that have so far been used and have not led to effectively putting an end to it.

Merah exploited “Jihad” in Afghanistan as a means in his criminal track record and to improve his skills at killing. And we are today witnessing attempts to politically rehabilitate, with what this involves in terms of ideology, the Taliban movement – the inspiration for this kind of “Jihad”.

(The writer is a prominent columnist. The article was published in the London-based al-Hayat on MArch 25, 2012)

Obama Wants Putin To Get-Off His Back About America’s Missile Shield, At Least Until November

[Once again, an open mike captures the real story for us.  Obama is clearly asking Medvedev for help against the Republicans, when he asks Medvedev to ask Putin for space.  White House spokesman Rhodes is clearly equivocating, or stretching the truth, when he tries to cover Obama’s ass.]

Obama asks Russia for ‘space’ through election

By JENNIFER EPSTEIN

Politico.com

SEOUL – President Barack Obama offered a private request Monday to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for some “space” on missile defense ahead of November’s elections.

“On all these issues, particularly on missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space,” Obama said, referring to incoming Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a TV pool reporter who heard audio recorded by a Russian reporter who was in the room moments before the two leaders spoke to reporters after their 90-minute meeting.

“Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you,” Medvedev responded.

A U.S. pool video camera in the room caught part of the audio, but not the piece about missile defense.

“This is my last election,” Obama said in audio that could be heard on the TV pool’s recording and that POLITICO listened to. “After my election I have more flexibility.”

Medvedev told Obama he understood and “will transmit this information to Vladimir.”

White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said in a statement that “the United States is committed to implementing our missile defense system, which we’ve repeatedly said is not aimed at Russia.”

“However, given the longstanding difference between the US and Russia on this issue, it will take time and technical work before we can try to reach an agreement. Since 2012 is an election year in both countries, with an election and leadership transition in Russia and an election in the United States, it is clearly not a year in which we are going to achieve a breakthrough,” Rhodes said. “Therefore, President Obama and President Medvedev agreed that it was best to instruct our technical experts to do the work of better understanding our respective positions, providing space for continued discussions on missile defense cooperation going forward.”

Evolution of Western NGOs in CIS States Since the “Color Revolutions”

Evolution of Western NGOs in CIS States After the “Color Revolution”

Li Lifan

China Institute of International Studies

Eight years have passed since the eruption of “Color Revolution”. During this period of time, Western NGOs which once trained pro-Western political forces in the name of human rights and democracy seem to have vanished. Nevertheless, they have not stopped their activities in CIS states in reality. It is just that they have changed their usual practices of preaching democracy, granting dollars and supporting the opposition, i.e. they have shifted from the foreground to the background, from specialization to generalization and from open public shows to hidden network initiatives. In response, in recent years, some CIS states began to monitor Western NGOs once again. Taking various preventive measures, these CIS states managed to bring Western NGOs into “State Controlled Zones”, but without essentially sacrificing their “evolution towards democracy”.

Pakistan’s Religious Parties Planning Million-Man March On Peshawar Sunday

Islam Zindabad Conference: JUI-F sets stage for ‘million-man’ rally in Peshawar

Around 25,000 chairs have been placed in the ground alone, giving an indication of expected turnout at the event. PHOTO: SANA

PESHAWAR: The stage is set for what the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) leaders claim would be a mammoth public rally to be attended by around one million people in Peshawar on Sunday.

“Around one million people are expected to attend the Islam Zindabad Conference,” JUI-F spokesperson Haji Abdul Jalil Jan told The Express Tribune. Jan said that preparations were complete for the meeting for which the party has been working on for a few months. Around 5,000 volunteers will also be deployed for security purposes.

The spokesperson claimed that a stage made out of 24 containers had been prepared, while about 25,000 chairs were arranged for in the open ground, with more chairs being placed in the meeting place at the Motorway Chowk.

Jan said that party leaders, including chief Fazlur Rehman, Abdul Ghaffoor Haideri, Mohammad Khan Sherani, Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, and Gul Naseeb Khan would speak on the occasion.

The party vigorously advertised the public meeting at prominent places across the provincial capital, with activists riding on motorcycles to announce the rally, while a majority of the local newspapers published advertisements for it.

Big meetings amid attacks

The JUI-F’s public meeting is taking place amid heightened activity of religious parties. The Jamaat-e- Islami (JI) had arranged a massive rally in Battakhela on Mach 21, claiming it to be the biggest public gathering in the history of Malakand.

This was seen as an attempt to reassert itself in Malakand, which has been a stronghold of its power in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), in the aftermath of the crippling militant insurgency and a series of military operations.

Interestingly, a meeting of the Awami National Party (ANP) came under attack in Nowshera around a month back, while the Pakistan Peoples Party-Sherpao’s (PPP-S) chief also met a similar fate earlier this month in Charsadda.

However, religious parties remain active in arranging political meetings and rallies without fear of such attacks, and continue making efforts to reach out to the people in the remote areas of K-P.

Both the JUI-F and JI, allies in the former Muttahida Majlis Amal (MMA), have failed to resume their alliance. Fazl indirectly warned the JI that they could lose public support, if they continued to rebuff his efforts for an electoral alliance.

Published in The Express Tribune

Creating Fake Evidence of Connections To A Non-Existent “Al-Qaeda” Underground

[A clumsy, transparent attempt to merge the French and Pakistani narratives.  This is the first claim of Frenchmen in Waziristan training camps, up until now, whenever linking Pakistan’s Tribal Regions to Europe before this, it was always “Germans” or Turks.  Conveniently, the Associated Press has taken this opportunity to contradict French intelligence assets, who have said there is no “Al-Qaeda” involved with the current case, or previous ones who revealed that there was no ‘Al-Qaeda” at all, or another one who revealed that Al-Q is merely a database of names of Afghan mujahedeen.  It takes a lot of effort and a lot of bad journalism to create a legend from a lot of bullshit.] 

Pakistani Taliban training Frenchmen

Most of the men have dual nationality with France and North African countries. — (AP Photo/Ishtiaq Mahsud)

DERA ISMAIL KHAN: Dozens of French Muslims are training with the Taliban in north-western Pakistan, raising fears of future attacks following the shooting deaths of seven people in southern France allegedly by a man who spent time in the region, Pakistani intelligence officials say.

Authorities are investigating whether Mohamed Merah, the Frenchman of Algerian descent who is suspected of killing three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three French paratroopers in Toulouse this month, was among the training group, the officials said on Saturday.

Merah was killed in a dramatic gunfight with police Thursday after a 32-hour standoff at his Toulouse apartment. The 23-year-old former auto body worker travelled twice to Afghanistan in 2010 and to Pakistan in 2011, and said he trained with al-Qaeda in the Pakistani militant stronghold of Waziristan.

Approximately 85 Frenchmen have been training with the Pakistani Taliban in the North Waziristan tribal area for the past three years, according to the intelligence officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. Most of the men have dual nationality with France and North African countries.

The Frenchmen operate under the name Jihad-e-Islami and are being trained to use explosives and other weapons at camps near the town of Miran Shah and in the Datta Khel area, the officials said. They are led by a French commander who goes by the name Abu Tarek. Five of the men returned to France in January 2011 to find new recruits, according to the officials. It’s unclear whether Merah was among that group.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy promised a crackdown on French citizens found to have trained in terror camps abroad.

“Anyone, who goes abroad to follow ideological courses that lead to terrorism will be criminally punished. The response will be prison,” he said in a campaign speech Saturday.

A senior French official close to the investigation into the shootings told The Associated Press on Friday that despite Merah’s claims of al Qaeda links, there was no sign he had “trained or been in contact with organized groups or jihadists.”

A militant commander, Ahmed Marwat, claimed in a phone call with the AP on Saturday that Merah was affiliated with the Pakistani Taliban in Waziristan, but provided no details. Marwat said he was part of the Jundullah wing of the Pakistani Taliban.

The claim could not be independently verified.

The Pakistani Taliban, which is closely allied with al Qaeda, has carried out hundreds of attacks in Pakistan over the past several years that have killed thousands of people.

Taliban leaders say they want to oust the US-backed government and install a hard-line Islamist regime. They also have international jihadi ambitions and trained the Pakistani-American who tried to detonate a car bomb in New York City’s Times Square in 2010.

The main sanctuary for the Pakistani Taliban is the restive tribal region along the Afghan border, especially North and South Waziristan. Despite a large military offensive in South Waziristan in 2009, the government has very little control over the area.

Western officials have been concerned for years about Muslim militants with European citizenship visiting north-western Pakistan, possibly training for missions that could include terror attacks in Europe where they would act as “lone wolves” or on the orders of others. In 2010 alone, dozens were believed to be there.

Merah told police during the standoff that he was trained “by a single person” when he was in Waziristan, not in a training center, so as not to be singled out because he spoke French,” the director of the DCRI intelligence service, Bernard Squarcini, told the Le Monde newspaper.

Merah was questioned by French intelligence officers last November after his second trip to Afghanistan, and was cooperative and provided a USB key with tourist-like photos of his trip, the French official close to the investigation told the AP.

While he was under surveillance last year, Merah was never seen contacting any radicals and went to nightclubs, not mosques, the official said. People who knew him confirmed that he was at a nightclub in recent weeks.

Merah told negotiators during the police standoff that he was able to buy a large arsenal of weapons thanks to years of petty theft, the official said.

French prosecutors said Merah filmed himself carrying out the three shooting attacks in Toulouse that began March 11.

U.S. trying to use India to isolate Iran: Arundhati Roy

U.S. trying to use India to isolate Iran: Arundhati Roy

Writer Arundhati Roy at a meeting organised by the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners in Hyderabad on Friday. Photo: Nagara Gopal

Writer Arundhati Roy at a meeting organised by the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners in Hyderabad on Friday. Photo: Nagara Gopal

U.S. further trying to build a cold war situation in China, says the well-known writer

Well-known author Arundhati Roy said that the Indo-U.S. relations were a “theatrical drama” enacted to induce India to support the U.S. with a view to isolate Iran on one hand and help build a cold war situation in China.

Addressing a meeting organised by the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners on the occasion of the 80 death anniversary of Bhagat Singh, Ms. Roy said the main concern of the U.S. was how to isolate and attack Iran for its nuclear programme. In the same way, China had become the target of the U.S. as a result of the escalation of the conflict on account of capitalism.

She said the U.S. had made Pakistan its ally but created a civil war in that country only to weaken it. The U.S. was now interested in creating a similar situation in China with India as its ally. Accordingly, India had acceded to the U.S. at every stage right from buying nuclear reactors to opening up foreign direct investment.

The big investments right now were in the education sector wherein U.S. universities wanted to set up franchises in India. That is why all universities in India were shifting to the semester system of examinations like in the U.S. It was also not a coincidence that spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar insisted that education should be privatised.

Ms. Roy said India before 1989 was non-aligned but today it was a natural ally of U.S. and Israel. The demolition of the Babri Masjid and the opening up of Indian markets were a deliberate attempt to weaken opposition to India becoming an ally of the U.S. War and arms shopping were the two techniques of the U.S. to bail itself out of a tight economic situation.

Earlier, civil rights activist Latif Mohammed Khan took exception to the failure of NGOs to raise their voice when Muslim youths were arrested after the blast in Mecca Masjid but released when the role of Hindu fundamentalists in the blasts was established.

China-Russia stand prevails in U.N.

China-Russia stand prevails in U.N.

ATUL ANEJA

The U.N. Security Council has unanimously backed Kofi Annan’s plan to halt violence and start a political process that could end the crisis in Syria, without calling for President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

With no implied references to regime change, Mr. Annan, special envoy of U.N. and the Arab League, called upon the government to lead the political transition in Syria, which has been ravaged by violence since the anti-regime uprising began a year ago. The presidential statement, which is a non-bonding document, said the U.N. envoy’s plan would “facilitate a Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, plural political system, in which citizens are equal regardless of their affiliations or ethnicities or beliefs, including through commencing a comprehensive political dialogue between the Syrian government and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition”.

Russia and China saw in the unified stand taken by the Council, a vindication of the core aspect of their position. Citing respect for the principle of national sovereignty and rejection of attempts to enforce “regime change”, both countries had vetoed earlier U.N. resolutions that implied that Mr. Assad should step down first.

With all Council members now supporting Mr. Annan’s position, both Moscow and Beijing sounded triumphant. “We are very pleased,” Russia’s outspoken ambassador to the U.N Vitaly Churkin told the media. “The Security Council has finally chosen to take a pragmatic look at the situation in Syria.”

An article in China’s Xinhua news agency saw more than one reason to applaud the UNSC’s statement. “Unlike the two blocked draft resolutions, the new presidential statement does not contain any words implying the forced regime change in Syria, the one-sided pressure on the Syrian government, and sanctions or the threat of sanctions on Damascus.”

PRELUDE

Earlier, the Arab League, with Saudi Arabia and Qatar in the lead, had insisted on Mr. Assad’s exit as a prelude to the formation of national unity government headed by the country’s Vice-President. Both Riyadh and Doha also showed considerable enthusiasm to arm the Syrian opposition — a position that even the West found unacceptable, given the fractious nature of Mr. Assad’s foes.

A separate press statement was also unambiguous in describing the recent attacks on Syrian government buildings in Damascus and Aleppo as acts of terrorism. Analysts say the U.N.’s position was an implicit rejection of the charge levelled by opposition activists that the explosions in Syria’s two most important cities were self-inflicted by the regime to garner international political support.

In setting out a road map for defusing tensions, the presidential statement was categorical in calling for a ceasefire and the lifting of roadblocks that impeded flow of humanitarian supplies to the conflict-ridden areas. The document expressed its “gravest concern at the deteriorating situation in Syria, which has resulted in a serious human rights crisis and a deplorable humanitarian situation”. The state-run Syrian news agency observed, with veiled satisfaction, that the Security Council’s position did not pronounce ultimatums, threats or “unilateral demands”.

Going It Alone–Why Kyrgyzstan Doesn’t Want Russian or American Bases

Going It Alone–

Why Kyrgyzstan Doesn’t Want Russian or American Bases

THEATLANTIC

JOSHUA FAUST

The Kyrgyz leader does not seem terribly interested in being Russia’s proxy in Central Asia
Atabmayev march22 p.jpg

Russia’s President Medvedev meets with his Kyrgyz counterpart Atambayev before taking part in the Eurasian Union Summit in Moscow Monday / Reuters

New Kyrgyz president Almazbek Atambayev isn’t getting along with Moscow:

Russian-Kyrgyz relations have deteriorated sharply. Russia is dissatisfied with Kyrgyz plans to shut down a russian military base, and Bishkek demands to replace the General Secretary of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). The new apple of discord became the Dastan torpedo producing plant, which Moscow is seeking to control.

Last year, when Atambayev threatened to shut down the U.S. base in Kyrgyzstan, analysts seemed to react in one of two ways: Atambayev was steering Kyrgyzstan toward a new, pro-Russia stance (focusing as well on his endorsement of the Eurasian Union), or he was just sort of angling for more money to coast out the last six months of 2014 until the whole question becomes moot anyway (I still lean toward the latter interpretation).

However, the latest round of tensions between Bishkek and Moscow might suggest something more: Atambayev doesn’t want any foreign domination or bases on Kyrgyz territory, including from Russia. Atambayev essentially rejected the Russian bid for a major share of Dastan. In 2009, Russia offered Kyrgyzstan a $300 million aid package and $2 billion in other spending, which was widely presumed to have inspired then-president Kurmanbek Bakiev to demand the U.S. leave the Manas Transit Center (he eventually agreed to a massive increase in lease payments in exchange for continued U.S. presence). But Russia also offered, as a part of that deal, to buy a 48% share in the Dastan munitions plant as part of a $198 million debt forgiveness package. It was meant to be a double-whammy: erase debt, get a hundred and fifty million dollars on top of that, all in exchange for a torpedo factory.

Atambayev doesn’t seem to consider that such a good deal. And if he’s both rejecting the Dastan deal and telling the Russians to get out of their base at Kant, and suggesting the CSTO get a new General Secretary … well things in Kyrgyzstan are getting a lot more interesting.

In a way, though, it’s not really a surprise that Atambayev is not terribly interested in being Russia’s proxy in Central Asia. No leader there really wants to be, even if Kazakhstan seems much more like Russia in many ways than it does the rest of Turkestan. One of the few constants in Central Asian politics, I think, and especially in their foreign policy, is the quest to successfully triangulate between the many foreign powers seeking to gobble up resources and access. While Russia enjoys warmer relations with most of their governments than does the U.S. or China, they aren’t that much warmer, and all told the memory of being part of the USSR lingers just enough to keep any leader from selling the farm, so to speak, to Moscow.

So where does Kyrgyzstan go from here? That’s a big question. Atambayev isn’t showing his cards just yet, but we can make some speculation based on his public statements. He has requested, repeatedly, that the U.S. military leave Manas when the lease expires in June of 2014. U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was in Kyrgyzstan just the other week trying to lay the foundation for a longer U.S. military presence there. From what we know in public, it hasn’t worked yet.

Atambayev has also rejected Russian bids to maintain a permanent military base there, and is not enthusiastic about allowing Russia controlling ownership in that Dastan torpedo plant either. That, might mean that he’s not swinging back and forth like a pendulum (U.S.-Russia-U.S.-Russia) but actually trying to carve out a separate, independent space from which to negotiate his external relations.

Of course, everyone wants to do that in the region. And Kyrgyzstan has famously failed to execute the so-called “multivector foreign policy” under Bakiev. So there’s no guarantee that this will stick. In all likelihood, one power or another is going to offer some outrageous amount of money and throw the system into imbalance again, which is probably what Atambayev wants anyway: more currency, more wrangling over Kyrgyzstan’s hand, more competition for influence.

Kyrgyzstan can only benefit from playing hard-to-get. So long as Afghanistan remains unsettled, Kyrgyzstan (and especially access to basing in Kyrgyzstan) will be coveted by both the U.S. and Russia, and they will pay dearly for it. Figuring out how to maneuver and gain advantage in such a space is not an easy trick for U.S. or Russian policymakers, and as long as they don’t quite have congruous goals in the region it’s not likely they’ll team up to force concessions out of the Kyrgyz government.

So in a few months, let’s check back and see how all the various deals and arrangements have changed. They’ll mostly be much the same as they are now.

Is A Central Asian “Spring” In the Cards That Have Been Dealt?

The Small Game: Minimizing Unrest in Central Asia

Mother
Fatima Mukaddirova, then 62, mother of the  Muslim prisoner Muzaffar Avazov, boiled to death in 2002, a week before her arrest at the Chorsu bazaar in Tashkent, October 2003. Photo by Uznews.net

Registan now has a new thesis in its curious game of mounting arguments that ultimately concede the status quo for the regimes of Central Asia, and ensuring withering scorn for their critics. (I’m torn between calling Registan “Spars & Swipes,” for its numerous nasty attacks on human rights activists and others who disagree with them, or simply “The Small Game”.)

Sarah Kendzior has a piece titled “The Reverse Orientalism of the Arab Spring”. Basically, her thesis, drawing from Edward Said (and thereby obliquely invoking the old “Zionism=Racism” canard), says that if we claim that the Arab Spring is coming to Central Asia, we’re racists and imperialists. By invoking such “reverse orientalism,” we’re claiming Central Asia is “a region deemed meaningful only by virtue of its similarity to the Arab world,” says Kendzior  — and thereby both obscuring and instrumentalizing it for geostrategic aims.

Sarah coins an interesting term: Central Asia is “the other’s other,” i.e. the exotic East even for Russia, itself the exotic East by contrast to the West. Of course, nowadays, the exoticism has warn off. Central Asia may be remote, but for 20 years, everybody from oil company executives to human rights fact-finders to journalists to backpackers have been going there and even have permanent offices. It isn’t quite as unknown as some might hope it will remain so they can go on justifying their roles as sherpas and academic interpreters for the uninitiated. In a world where analysts in Bishkek can tweet and Livestream their comments and conferences, it’s rapidly becoming a world where Western gurus are losing power.

Sure, the ubiquitous Arab Spring invocations (well, from some but not all wire service and mainstream dailies) get annoying. They do lump together countries with very different histories and experiences. Not to mention that the Arab Spring isn’t what it cracked up to be, either — the military keeps killing more people in Egypt; profound challenges always expected from the Muslim Brotherhood are now coming to pass and the fate of liberals and secularists is not certain.

But Kendzior seems just plain mad that her region isn’t a special snowflake, and hates it to be trivialized or instrumentalized — hence, the over-dramatic reach for Said:

“The worst aspect of this essentializing stuff,” wrote Said, “is that human suffering in all its density and pain is spirited away.” Predicting a “Kazakh Spring” after an incident like the shootings in Zhanaozen trivializes both the struggles of Arab dissidents and the pain of Kazakhs who endured a serious, but unrelated, tragedy. Similarly, not every move a Central Asian dictator makes is in reaction to uprisings in the Middle East. Censorship and repression have a long history in Central Asia – yet they fail to merit media attention unless they are linked to a more popular plight.

There wasn’t any Arab Spring yet in June 2010 (the Tunisian demonstration happened in December 2010), but the media covered the inter-ethnic clashes in Kyrgyzstan on their own terms. The media couldn’t cover as well the crushing of labour unrest in a closed area in Kazakhstan, but the shooting of workers isn’t trivialized by questions about Egypt-like upheavals; if anything the social struggle becomes more dignified and taken seriously. Would anyone argue that if it weren’t for Osh — and the Arab Spring — very different but not entirely different phenomena — that Nazarbayev would have fired his own son-in-law and dispensed cash to victims’ families?

Kendzior believes there’s an inherent racism and ignorance involved in making Central Asia “the Arab Spring’s doppelganger.” Just because these countries have dictators and lots of Muslims in them doesn’t mean they’ll go anything like the routes of Egypt or Tunia or Yemen or Syria, dramatically good or bad, she says:

Never mind that comparatively little has “spread” from the Arab world to Central Asia in recent years (hyberbolic claims of Hizb-ut Tahrir domination notwithstanding), or that Central Asians sometimes take a dim view of these revolutions, or that the Soviet legacy shapes Central Asian politics far more than anything taking place abroad. Instead, Central Asia is often presented as a Middle East in training: they are Muslims, they have oil, they have dictators, so their policies and protests must have the Arab Spring as their guiding impulse.

Well, I’m glad that we agree the Soviet legacy shapes Central Asian politics “far more than anything taking place abroad,” but gosh, part of that Soviet legacy is the crushing of the popular front in January 1990 in Azerbaijan and the shooting of demonstrators at the TV tower in Lithuania and ultimately the failed August coup. It’s almost as if there’s a taboo being established here. We must never say the Arab Spring has any effect on Central Asia — whatever the obvious parallels between entrenched dictators and people whose religious aspirations have been suppressed. If we say anything like the unrest of the Arab Spring is coming, we are either hopelessly naive or provocateurs. The net effect of this position, however, is that an entrenched think-tank class ensures that these regimes never have to face the implications of an Arab Spring — and the extremist religious movements don’t have to face scrutiny, either.

While I recognize this is the scholarly status quo, I have to point out the troubling aspects of closing off debate about this region in this fashion.

First, there’s a certain straw man argument here — there aren’t hordes of analysts or  journalists saying that anything remotely like the Arab Spring has come to Central Asian nations or will come tomorrow. Even opposition groups that might occasionally exploit the opportunity to make comparisons have been measured in their comments. Human rights activists interviewed by uznews.net have tended to say that there aren’t conditions for any such upheavals, although one provincial activist said there was. When I’ve pressed Registan to come up with the links to these supposed academics or think-tankers out there really mounting a serious claim about Arab Spring like potentials, all I get is a tweet Blake Hounsell once might have made, or a New York Times article in which the author rightly said that Nazarbayev regime must have been mindful of the Arab Spring potential.

Second, the thesis of “reverse orientalism” essentially eclipses any commentary about the challenge the regimes themselves are clearly facing, and pre-empts any admission that it *is* really a challenge to them, regardless of whether mass unrest is actually possible.

While you would be hard put to find actual social movements able to put thousands of people into public squares because they managed to glimpse a video of Tahrir Square on Youtube before it was blocked, what you can point to are the moves of these regimes to pre-empt a Spring. All of the Central Asian regimes have cracked down on mobile phones and the Internet and in Tashkent’s case, created a simulation of Facebook to try to siphon social chatters off to their own realm and away from more free settings. They most definitely are doing this not merely as a continuation of their Soviet pattern, but in reaction to these media burgeoning. So this is one of those examples of reflexivity — the regimes’ perceptions of a threat not even there makes them crack down nervously; that crackdown then helps ensure the fulfillment of the prophecy.

The dismissal of the Arab Spring potential belongs to the same school as the dismissal of the Islamist threat, which is in part motivated by a political battle with conservatives. Yes, the “it can’t happen here” is backed by obvious facts (low Internet penetration), but it doesn’t factor in reflexivity sufficiently. While Hizb-ut-Tahir and similar unauthorized Muslim groups don’t seem to have any massive support in Uzbekistan, what they do have is anywhere from 5000-8000 religious prisoners in the Uzbek gulag — and their tens of thousands of relatives — who may not have started out even knowing what HuT even was when they went to an innocuous prayer meeting at a neighbour’s home, but who, after years of torture and finding solidarity with fellow inmates, or after years of seeing their loved ones harmed, sure may be  members now — and angry members.

Just like everybody wants to free Guantanamo prisoners but nobody wants to take them in their country and human rights groups don’t want to contemplate the ramifications of problems like Gita-gate, so nobody wants to contemplate the far larger problem of what it would mean to release more than 5,000 traumatized religious believers into the wild. Oh, I know, ask Egypt. A key way the Mubarak regime ensured that Muslim Brotherhood gained a foothold was by torturing its prisoners — they emerged never believing in any Western — or Eastern — notion of human rights ever again.

But what happens when you mount academic theses that unrest can “never happen here” or that Islamic fundamentalism “can’t happen” is that you are unprepared with policies when it does. If you’ve assured the world that there is no Hizb-ut-Tahrir problem whatsoever, forgetting even that there might be if the prison policy changes (and it must if we are to insist on our human rights ideals) — then when a country *does* grow more religious, even shy of the extremities of HuT, decision-makers are unprepared. If you’ve spent years telling everyone that Islamic fundamentalism in Tajikistan isn’t really a problem any more and the civil war is over and the threat is exaggerated, then you have no framework to understand that pretty much all significant dissent in Tajikistan seems to take the form of Muslim activism, and then policy-makers may view what is normal and natural for a country as suddenly a threat. The very analysis that seeks to minimize unrest or religious revival in opposition to mythical promoters of these concepts then winds up fueling the hysteria they claimed to see in the first place.

Kurd militants threaten Turkey if it enters Syria

Kurd militants threaten Turkey if it enters Syria

By Jon Hemming

ANKARA

(Reuters) – Turkish Kurd militants threatened on Thursday to turn all Kurdish populated areas into a “war zone” if Turkish troops entered Syria, a sign the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has allies in Syria may be taking sides in the conflict there.

A renewed alliance between Damascus and the PKK would anger Turkeyand could prompt it to take an even stronger line against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over his brutal repression of anti-government protesters.

PKK field commander Murat Karayilan said Turkey was preparing the ground for an intervention in Syria.

“The Turkish state is planning an intervention against our people,” the Europe-based Firat news agency, close to the militants, quoted him as saying.

“Let me state clearly, if the Turkish state intervenes against our people in western Kurdistan, all of Kurdistan will turn into a war zone,” he said.

Western Kurdistan is the term Kurdish nationalists use to describe Kurdish areas of northeast Syria, while by Kurdistan they mean the Kurdish areas of Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said last week that setting up a “safe zone” or a “buffer zone” along the border with Syria to protect civilians from Assad’s forces was among the options being considered should the stream of refugees turn into a flood.

Setting up such a zone would involve troops entering Syria to secure territory. Turkey has turned sharply against its former friend Assad and has taken a lead in trying to forge international agreement on the need for stronger action on Syria.

While Syrian government forces are clashing daily with insurgents demanding the downfall of Assad, Syrian Kurdish areas have remained relatively calm, despite many Kurds’ long-standing opposition to the government.

Some Syrian Kurdish groups opposed to Assad have formed their own umbrella group after complaining of being sidelined by the main opposition Syrian National Council (SNC), which they say is dominated by Arab nationalists.

But the comparative calm in Syria’s Kurdish northeast may also be related to what some Kurdish analysts say is the growing influence of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Syrian Kurdish group allied to the PKK which has kept away from the opposition.

TURKEY WARNS SYRIA ON PKK

The PKK, set up in 1984 to fight for Kurdish home rule in southeast Turkey, is commanded from bases in the remote mountains of northern Iraq, but was once backed by Syria.

Though Turkey has the second biggest army in NATO, it has failed to quash the PKK in 27 years of bitter fighting. More than 40,000 militants, soldiers and civilians have been killed in the conflict. Turkey, the United States and the European Union all list the PKK as a terrorist organization.

Turkish officials say they are watching closely for signs Syria may renew its support for the PKK, which it dropped in late 1998 after Turkish tanks massed on the Syrian border. Damascus was forced to deport PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan who was later seized by Turkish special forces in Kenya.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has repeatedly said Syria “would not dare” make such a mistake again.

Kurds make up at least 10 percent of Syria’s population. Like the majority of Syrians, they are Sunni Muslims, but have struggled to assert their ethnic identity under 40 years of Arab nationalist Ba’ath Party rule.

The Assad regime had denied some stateless Kurds Syrian nationality documents but it has made concessions since the start of the uprising to ease unrest in Kurdish areas.

Some Arabs are concerned that the Kurds, mostly based in northeast Syria on the borders with Turkey and Iraq, secretly seek a separate state that includes cross border territories.

Syrian Kurd opposition groups deny wanting a separate state, but say they want autonomy similar to that of the Iraqi Kurds.

(Editing by Tim Pearce)

Operation Midnight Climax: How the CIA Dosed S.F. Citizens with LSD

Operation Midnight Climax: How the CIA Dosed S.F. Citizens

with LSD

By Troy Hooper 

Welcome to sfweekly.com

image
Illustration by Rick Sealock.

Wayne Ritchie with his late wife, 
Virginia.

Courtesy of Linda Russo
Wayne Ritchie with his late wife, Virginia.

It’s been over 50 years, but Wayne Ritchie says he can still remember how it felt to be dosed with acid.

He was drinking bourbon and soda with other federal officers at a holiday party in 1957 at the U.S. Post Office Building on Seventh and Mission streets. They were cracking jokes and swapping stories when, suddenly, the room began to spin. The red and green lights on the Christmas tree in the corner spiraled wildly. Ritchie’s body temperature rose. His gaze fixed on the dizzying colors around him.

Rick Sealock

The deputy U.S. marshal excused himself and went upstairs to his office, where he sat down and drank a glass of water. He needed to compose himself. But instead he came unglued. Ritchie feared the other marshals didn’t want him around anymore. Then he obsessed about the probation officers across the hall and how they didn’t like him, either.Everyone was out to get him. Ritchie felt he had to escape.

He fled to his apartment and sought comfort from his live-in girlfriend. It didn’t go as planned. His girlfriend was there, but an argument erupted. She told him she was growing tired of San Francisco and wanted to return to New York City. Ritchie couldn’t handle the situation. Frantic, he ran away again, this time to the Vagabond Bar where he threw back more bourbon and sodas. From there, he hit a few more bars, further cranking up his buzz. As he drank his way back to Seventh and Mission, Ritchie concocted a plan that would change his life.

Now in his mid-eighties and living in San Jose, Ritchie may be among the last of the living victims of MK-ULTRA, a Central Intelligence Agency operation that covertly tested lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) on unwitting Americans in San Francisco and New York City from 1953 to 1964.

“I remember that night very clearly, yes I do,” he said in a recent interview. “I was paranoid. I got down to where I thought everyone was against me. The whole world was against me.”

After the day had bled into night on Dec. 20, 1957, Ritchie returned to his office in the Post Office Building and retrieved two service revolvers from his locker. He was going rogue.

“I decided if they want to get rid of me, I’ll help them. I’ll just go out and get my guns from my office and hold up a bar,” Ritchie recalls. “I thought, ‘I can get enough money to get my girlfriend an airline ticket back to New York, and I’ll turn myself in.’ But I was unsuccessful.”

Out of his skull on a hallucinogen and alcohol, Ritchie rolled into the Shady Grove in the Fillmore District, and ordered one final bourbon and soda. After swallowing down the final drops, he pointed his revolver at the bartender and demanded money. Before joining the marshals, Ritchie served five years in the Marines and spent a year as an Alcatraz prison guard. But the cop had suddenly become the robber.

It was over in a flash. A waitress came up behind him and asked Ritchie what he was doing. When Ritchie turned around, a patron hit him over the head and knocked him unconscious. He awoke to a pair of police officers standing over him.

Ritchie says he had expected to get caught or killed.

The judge went easy on him and Ritchie avoided prison. He resigned from the Marshals Service, pleaded guilty to attempted armed robbery, paid a $500 fine, and was sentenced to five years’ probation.

Ritchie’s story is certainly peculiar, but not unique. Other San Franciscans were unsuspecting participants in a strange research program in which the government effectively broke the law in an effort to fight the Cold War.

Seymour Hersh first exposed MK-ULTRA in a New York Times article in 1974 that documented CIA illegalities, including the use of its own citizens as guinea pigs in games of war and espionage. John Marks expertly chronicled more of the operation in his 1979 book, The Search for the Manchurian Candidate. There have been other reports on the CIA’s doping of civilians, but they have mostly dished about activities in New York City. Accounts of what actually occurred in San Francisco have been sparse and sporadic. But newly declassified CIA records, recent interviews, and a personal diary of an operative at Stanford Special Collections shed more light on the breadth of the San Francisco operation.

There were at least three CIA safe houses in the Bay Area where experiments went on. Chief among them was 225 Chestnut on Telegraph Hill, which operated from 1955 to 1965. The L-shaped apartment boasted sweeping waterfront views, and was just a short trip up the hill from North Beach’s rowdy saloons. Inside, prostitutes paid by the government to lure clients to the apartment served up acid-laced cocktails to unsuspecting johns, while martini-swilling secret agents observed their every move from behind a two-way mirror. Recording devices were installed, some disguised as electrical outlets.

To get the guys in the mood, the walls were adorned with photographs of tortured women in bondage and provocative posters from French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The agents grew fascinated with the kinky sex games that played out between the johns and the hookers. The two-way mirror in the bedroom gave the agents a close-up view of all the action.

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Dangerous Narratives Encourage Ideas of International “Holy War”

Dangerous narratives

By Hasan Khan

IF anything drags down the current peace process in Afghanistan it will be the prevalence of religious, ethno-historical and politico-strategic narratives that encourage Afghans to continue fighting till the finish.

The Afghan psychology is one of ‘raw bravery’ boosted by romanticising past victories against global powers. Serious measures are needed to counter these narratives.

Following Obama’s exit policy in Afghanistan, different forums have started debating possible solutions to the future of the war-battered country. The Taliban’s readiness to open a political shop in Qatar and its recent contacts with the US had given impetus to these debating sessions.

However, workable ideas have been scant; most donor-sponsored forums waste time on tracing the factors that led to the war, counting the actors and coming up with ‘conspiracies’ that were hatched by the world against the Afghans.

Reading the history of the Afghan wars through rose-tinted glasses, a batch of retired generals and first-generation Pakhtun intellectuals have been busy romanticising Afghan heroism and love for religion as well as trying to frighten the world by presenting superhuman Afghan qualities. Calling for the humiliation of the Americans at the hands of the Afghans, these ‘experts’ continue to beat the drums of war, as they remind the Afghans of their ‘glorious’ past.

The Afghan conflict is seen predominantly through the prism of religion and the perception among ordinary Afghans is that their ragtag nation is repeating history by defeating the US just as they triumphed over the Soviet Union and the British Empire.

This discourse is very dangerous as it continues to fan the idea of ‘holy jihad’ in a religious sense and ‘the global war on terror’ at a politico-strategic level.

No efforts at coming up with a permanent solution to the Afghan crisis can be successful until such narratives, whether based in religion, history or politics, are eliminated. Space is needed for an alternative discourse before various Afghan factions and
ethnic groups can effectively be made part of a future dispensation.

Since the invasion by the Soviet Union in 1979, the Afghan conflict is being showcased as a holy war. This prefix continues as Afghan lands serve as hunting grounds for both Arab sheikhdoms and western democracies — some are sending their bad boys
there, others are searching for the bad boys.

Another equally dangerous narrative is propagated mostly by military commentators and religious elites who call the Afghans ‘invincible’ and their land a graveyard for the superpowers, in which history is now repeating itself.

The fact is that the British Empire remained master of Afghan foreign policy from 1879 to 1919 — 40 years — unchallenged.

Besides, taking full control of Afghan foreign policy, the British also seized the Kurram and Pishin valleys, Sibi and Khyber Pass and forced the Afghan monarch to sign the humiliating treaty of Gandamak.

In the late 19th century, the Afghan monarch signed the Durand Line Treaty surrendering Afghanistan’s legal claims over what became the North West Frontier Province and the tribal areas (now Fata) to the British Crown. And who defeated the Soviets?

No doubt the Afghans put up a historic resistance but the war was, for all purposes, the Soviets vs the world.

An alternate discourse should challenge the current narratives and must be actively encouraged in Afghan society and Pakistan in a way that discourages outside forces from using Afghan soil to further their long-term strategic interests.

The writer is director, news and current affairs at Khyber TV.

hasan.khyber@gmail.com

 

France official: Gunman had no ties to al Qaeda

France official: Gunman had no ties to al Qaeda

French special intervention police officers prepare to leave the area in Toulouse, France Thursday, March 22, 2012 where Mohamed Merah (insert) died after jumping from his window, gun in hand, in a fierce shootout with police. (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)

 

(CBS/AP) PARIS – French authorities have no evidence that al Qaeda commissioned a French gunman to go on a killing spree that left seven people dead, or that he had any contact with terrorist groups, a senior French official said Friday.

 

The official, who is close to the investigation into the attacks by 23-year-old Mohamed Merah, said there is no sign he had “trained or been in contact with organized groups or jihadists.”

 

Merah was killed in a gunfight with police Thursday after a 32-hour standoff with police. Prosecutors said he filmed himself carrying out three attacks since March 11, killing three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three French paratroopers with close-range shots to the head.

 

He had traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and prosecutors said he had claimed contacts with al Qaeda and to have trained in the Pakistan militant stronghold of Waziristan.

 

He had been on a U.S. no-fly list since 2010.

 

The official said Merah might have made the claim because al Qaeda is a well-known “brand.” The official said authorities have “absolutely no element allowing us to believe that he was commissioned by al Qaeda to carry out these attacks.”

 

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation.

 

A little-known jihadist group claimed responsibility for the killings, but the official said the claim appeared opportunistic and that authorities think Merah had never heard of the group.

Drug Legalization Debate Gaining Momentum in Central America

Colombia news - Americas Summit

Drug Legalization Debate Gaining Momentum in Central America

On March 9, Honduran president Porfirio Lobo Sosa, acting as the  Central American Integration System (SICA) president and at the request of its members, invited Colombia and Mexico to join the next meeting of SICA in Guatemala on March 24.  Both presidents Santos and Calderon accepted the invitation. The meeting will focus on the recent proposal by Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina to legalize drugs.

Lobo Soza declared: ”President Calderón, President Santos, and the leaders of the Central American isthmus have agreed that the manner in which we are [dealing with drug trafficking] is not the solution because we continue to lose human lives.”

Although the debate has been brewing for a while, the first expression of regional discontent came on December 6th, 2011, with the publication of a declaration calling for the exploration of “regulatory or market oriented options”, signed by 10 heads of states of the Central-American and Caribbean region members of the Tuxtla System for Dialogue.

The current debate was launched by Guatemalan president Otto Perez Molina, a former general elected on a law and order platform. Perez Molina surprised everyone a few days after taking office in January 14th, 2012 when he declared the war on drugs a failure and asked for an open debate to explore alternatives, including legalization. Following discussions with Colombian President Santos, President Perez Molina further declared on February 11th his intention to present his proposal for drug legalization at the April 14-15 Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia. He sent his Vice-President Roxana Baldetti on a tour to promote his proposal to regional leader on February 29th.

The move was greeted by a quick rebuke from the US government, who dispatched Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to the region on February 28th, one day ahead of Roxana Baldetti’s own tour. Napolitano was followed by US vice-president Joe Biden, who visited Mexico to reiterate US commitment to the War on Drugs, before heading to the March 6 meeting of the Central American Integration System (SICA) hosted by president Porfirio Lobo Sosa in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Considering President Lobo Sosa initial opposition to legalization, this latest move represents an interesting development. In his declaration, President Lobo Sosa affirmed  “This very important proposal is something that we need to assess and manage in a positive way so that, if the discussion is successful, we can offer to the world a better solution, if we are able to find it, to the terrible problem of narco-trafficking.”

This latest development reaffirms the determination of Latin American countries to the legalization debate and seems to indicate a willingness to accelerate the process in preparation for the Summit of the Americas on April 14-15. While the March 6 SICA meeting, undoubtedly hold off by Biden presence at the meeting, didn’t produce much more than an intent to open the debate, we can expect concrete proposals at the March 24th meeting. President Perez Molina announced that workgroups are actively preparing the details of his proposal.

There are good reasons to suspect that Colombian president Santos has been involved with the Perez Molina initiative from the very start, as alluded to by Perez Molina himself. The fact that President Santos is now coming out more openly is significant. Colombia is considered the best US ally in the War on Drugs, and is often touted as a success story and a model by the US anti-drug apparatus. The Colombian themselves have a more measured appreciation. While there has been undeniable progress since the peak of narco-violence in the 1990s, Santos himself acknowledges that the problem is contained at best. Colombia is still the main cocaine producer in the world and while the mega-cartels of the past may have been destroyed, it has opened the gates to the Mexican cartels and has resulted in an explosion of mini-cartels. The loss of its Colombian ally would be a major blow to the US anti-drug strategy, a blow that could prove fatal if Mexico was to join the legalization camp.

It is too early to say where the Perez Molina initiative will lead to, and what its true objectives may be. It may be a ploy to increase pressure on the US government to allocate more resources to the region, as has been argued. On the other hand, if any lesson can be drawn from the Colombian and Mexican experience, it is quite obvious that their war-like strategy came at a very high human cost for these countries. Central American countries have borne the brunt of narco-violence for the past three decades and as this violence keeps increasing, they seem to be genuinely ready to call it quits and to be looking for more realistic and workable alternatives. These already impoverished countries do not have the resources to deploy a US style prohibitionist system, and it would be folly for them to even attempt to. They are plagued by systemic corruption, youth unemployment, poor education and gang violence. Their gang problem itself is largely the result of the US policy of deportation of illegal immigrants with criminal records to their native countries. As the US prison system is a notorious training ground for criminals, where inmates are far more dangerous when they get out than they were when they got in, the US has been sending droves of hardened criminals south of their border, with catastrophic consequences for the receiving countries. This, added to the constant flow of weapons flooding the region because of the US impotence at regulating its own gun industry, is adding to the profound discontent in the region, which is tired to take the blame and pay the price for an issue that they rightly perceive as being imposed onto them.

In any case, it would be well advised for all the drug policy reform activists the world over to come resolutely in support of the Perez Molina initiative and to contribute as much as possible to the debate going on in Latin America.

I have argued for quite some time, most notably in my recently published “World War-D”, that Latin America is the only part of the world where drug policy reform can emerge. We might be witnessing this emergence and might be on the verge of a major paradigm shift in drug policy.

This, folks, is history in the making. Be part of it! To that effect, I invite you to sign and promote the Perez Molina petition: http://signon.org/sign/support-guatemalan-president

Saudis Intend To Put Iran Out of Business

[The Saudis are playing a high stakes game, intended to help destroy the Iranian economy.  Leasing/purchasing these 11 Very Large Crude Carriers enables the  Saudis to both greatly increase Aramco’s crude oil sales and to undercut international oil prices, so that Iran will feel the bite of international sanctions.  If these tankers are used to ease fuel inflation in the US, then Obama will get a large boost in the polls when those tankers arrive in the US at the end of March of early April.  If gas suddenly goes down and the corners of Obama’s mouth go up in a perpetual grin, then we will understand why, but will any of it really matter in the end?  

This is what Prince Turki al-Faisal had in mind when he recently threatened to go after Iran by flooding the oil market–   

“Iran is very vulnerable in the oil sector, and it’s there that more could be done to squeeze the current government….To put this into perspective, Saudi Arabia has so much [spare] production capacity — nearly 4 million barrels per day — that we could almost instantly replace all of Iran’s oil production.”  

The Saudis plan to put Iran out of business, so that their Sunni revolutionaries have a better chance to finally undo the Shia challenges to Wahabbi rule over all the Muslims in the entire world.  In the long run, they actually plan total domination of all Middle Eastern oil and gas, as evidenced by today’s news that China oil and gas giant Sinopec partner with Aramco to build the world’s largest gas refinery at Yanbu, on the Red Sea.  This monster will produce 400,000 barrels a day, starting in 2014, the year that Saudi Arabia takes control of nearly all of the Middle East, thanks to good old Uncle Sam, but will that come soon enough to save the American economy?]     

    

 Saudis Prompt Oil Price Intervention By Huge Tanker Charters

International Business Times

The U.S. may be edging closer to energy independence, but in the oil markets and its prices, Saudi Arabia is king.

Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s oil company, has recently chartered 11 very large crude carriers (VLCCs).  Each transports as many as two million barrels of oil.

They were chartered earlier in March with one goal in mind: to dump their cargo with U.S.refiners, and help bring energy prices down by increasing the supply of oil, reported the Financial Times.

In so doing, they ensure that sanctions against Iran do their job, said Marvin Zonis, professor emeritus at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, who’s followed Iran more than 40 years.

Zonis said Iran’s saber rattling about closing the Strait of Hormuz had prompted traders to inflate the price of oil, which helps offset oil sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program by lining Tehran’s coffers with more cash.

Squeezing Iran 

A barrel of oil sold for $105.51 on the New York Mercantile Exchange  on Thursday — about 33 percent above the October low.

The more oil prices ease, the more Iran will be squeezed, Zonis said.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia’s oil minister Ali Naimi commented oil prices are unjustifiably high and that his country would boost its production by 25 percent if necessary.

It’s part of a multi-pronged attempt to reel in and cool energy prices which have triggered fears of a slowdown in the world economy.

Oil prices acorss the globe dropped by more than $1 on Tuesday following assurances Saudi production will offset Iranian declines in production.

Tankers Give More Controls

By chartering the tankers, Saudi Aramco essentially increased by 50 percent the total number Saudi Arabia owns or controls.

The CIA reports the country had 22 petroleum tankers out of a fleet of 74 cargo ships in 2010.

Last year, the country chartered only one VLCC to the U.S., the Financial Times reported.

With Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest producer and exporter of oil, Saudi Aramco’s venture into oil transport will only cement the country’s influence on oil prices.

“It is hard to exaggerate the control on oil markets that Saudi Arabia has already,” Zonis said. “It is the largest single influence on the oil market.”

The professor said chartering the tankers only further proves Saudi Arabia’s dominance.

The reason is that with proven reserves of 266.7 billion barrels, the Arab kingdom could be the world’s biggest oil producer for many more years.

“It certainly confirms that you don’t want to mess with Saudi Arabia,” Zonis said

The tankers will make their way into the Gulf of Mexico by the end of March or the first week of April, after sailing for 40 days.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.

Is This The Beginning Of The End For The Petrodollar?

Saudi Arabia And China Team Up To Build A Gigantic New Oil Refinery 


 The largest oil exporter in the Middle East has teamed up with the second largest consumer of oil in the world (China) to build a gigantic new oil refinery and the mainstream media in the United States has barely even noticed it.  This mammoth new refinery is scheduled to be fully operational in the Red Sea port city of Yanbu by 2014.  Over the past several years, China has sought to aggressively expand trade with Saudi Arabia, and China now actually imports more oil from Saudi Arabia than the United States does.  In February, China imported 1.39 million barrels of oil per day from Saudi Arabia.  That was 39 percent higher than last February.  So why is this important?  Well, back in 1973 the United States and Saudi Arabia agreed that all oil sold by Saudi Arabia would be denominated in U.S. dollars.  This petrodollar system was adopted by almost the entire world and it has had great benefits for the U.S. economy.  But if China becomes Saudi Arabia’s most important trading partner, then why should Saudi Arabia continue to only sell oil in U.S. dollars?  And if the petrodollar system collapses, what is that going to mean for the U.S. economy?

Those are very important questions, and they will be addressed later on in this article.  First of all, let’s take a closer look at the agreement reached between Saudi Arabia and China recently.

The following is how the deal was described in a recent China Daily article….

In what Riyadh calls “the largest expansion by any oil company in the world”, Sinopec’s deal on Saturday with Saudi oil giant Aramco will allow a major oil refinery to become operational in the Red Sea port of Yanbu by 2014.

The $8.5 billion joint venture, which covers an area of about 5.2 million square meters, is already under construction. It will process 400,000 barrels of heavy crude oil per day. Aramco will hold a 62.5 percent stake in the plant while Sinopec will own the remaining 37.5 percent.

At a time when the U.S. is actually losing refining capacity, this is a stunning development.

Yet the U.S. press has been largely silent about this.

Very curious.

But China is not just doing deals with Saudi Arabia.  China has also been striking deals with several other important oil producing nations.  The following comes from a recent article by Gregg Laskoski….

China’s investment in oil infrastructure and refining capacity is unparalleled. And more importantly, it executes a consistent strategy of developing world-class refining facilities in partnership with OPEC suppliers. Such relationships mean economic leverage that could soon subordinate U.S. relations with the same countries.

Egypt is building its largest refinery ever with investment from China.

Shortly after the partnership with Egypt was announced, China signed a $23 billion agreement with Nigeria to construct three gasoline refineries and a fuel complex in Nigeria.

Essentially, China is running circles around the United States when it comes to locking up strategic oil supplies worldwide.

And all of these developments could have tremendous implications for the future of the petrodollar system.

If you are not familiar with the petrodollar system, it really is not that complicated.  Basically, almost all of the oil in the world is traded in U.S. dollars.  The origin of the petrodollar system was detailed in a recent article by Jerry Robinson….

In 1973, a deal was struck between Saudi Arabia and the United States in which every barrel of oil purchased from the Saudis would be denominated in U.S. dollars. Under this new arrangement, any country that sought to purchase oil from Saudi Arabia would be required to first exchange their own national currency for U.S. dollars. In exchange for Saudi Arabia’s willingness to denominate their oil sales exclusively in U.S. dollars, the United States offered weapons and protection of their oil fields from neighboring nations, including Israel.

By 1975, all of the OPEC nations had agreed to price their own oil supplies exclusively in U.S. dollars in exchange for weapons and military protection. 

This petrodollar system, or more simply known as an “oil for dollars” system, created an immediate artificial demand for U.S. dollars around the globe. And of course, as global oil demand increased, so did the demand for U.S. dollars.

Once you understand the petrodollar system, it becomes much easier to understand why our politicians treat Saudi leaders with kid gloves.  The U.S. government does not want to see anything happen that would jeopardize the status quo.

A recent article by Marin Katusa described some more of the benefits that the petrodollar system has had for the U.S. economy….

The “petrodollar” system was a brilliant political and economic move. It forced the world’s oil money to flow through the US Federal Reserve, creating ever-growing international demand for both US dollars and US debt, while essentially letting the US pretty much own the world’s oil for free, since oil’s value is denominated in a currency that America controls and prints. The petrodollar system spread beyond oil: the majority of international trade is done in US dollars. That means that from Russia to China, Brazil to South Korea, every country aims to maximize the US-dollar surplus garnered from its export trade to buy oil.

The US has reaped many rewards. As oil usage increased in the 1980s, demand for the US dollar rose with it, lifting the US economy to new heights. But even without economic success at home the US dollar would have soared, because the petrodollar system created consistent international demand for US dollars, which in turn gained in value. A strong US dollar allowed Americans to buy imported goods at a massive discount – the petrodollar system essentially creating a subsidy for US consumers at the expense of the rest of the world. Here, finally, the US hit on a downside: The availability of cheap imports hit the US manufacturing industry hard, and the disappearance of manufacturing jobs remains one of the biggest challenges in resurrecting the US economy today.

So what happens if the petrodollar system collapses?

Well, for one thing the value of the U.S. dollar would plummet big time.

U.S. consumers would suddenly find that all of those “cheap imported goods” would rise in price dramatically as would the price of gasoline.

If you think the price of gas is high now, you just wait until the petrodollar system collapses.

In addition, there would be much less of a demand for U.S. government debtsince countries would not have so many excess U.S. dollars lying around.

So needless to say, the U.S. government really needs the petrodollar system to continue.

But in the end, it is Saudi Arabia that is holding the cards.

If Saudi Arabia chooses to sell oil in a currency other than the U.S. dollar, most of the rest of the oil producing countries in the Middle East would surely do the same rather quickly.

And we have already seen countries in other parts of the world start to move away from using the U.S. dollar in global trade.

For example, Russia and China have agreed to now use their own national currencies when trading with each other rather than the U.S. dollar.

That got virtually no attention in the U.S. media, but it really was a big deal when it was announced.

A recent article by Graham Summers summarized some of the other moves away from the U.S. dollar in international trade that we have seen recently….

Indeed, officials from China, India, Brazil, Russia, and South Africa (the latest addition to the BRIC acronym, now to be called BRICS) recently met in southern China to discuss expanding the use of their own currencies in foreign trade (yet another move away from the US Dollar).

To recap:

  • China and Russia have removed the US Dollar from their trade
  • China is rushing its trade agreement with Brazil
  • China, Russia, Brazil, India, and now South Africa are moving to trade more in their own currencies (not the US Dollar)
  • Saudi Arabia is moving to formalize trade with China and Russia
  • Singapore is moving to trade yuan

The trend here is obvious. The US Dollar’s reign as the world’s reserve currency is ending. The process will take time to unfold. But the Dollar will be finished as reserve currency within the next five years.

Yes, the days of the U.S. dollar being the primary reserve currency of the world are definitely numbered.

It will not happen overnight, but as the U.S. economy continues to get weaker it is inevitable that the rest of the world will continue to question why the U.S. dollar should automatically have such a dominant position in international trade.

Over the next few years, keep a close eye on Saudi Arabia.

When Saudi Arabia announces a move away from the petrodollar system, that will be a major trigger event for the global financial system and it will be a really, really bad sign for the U.S. economy.

The level of prosperity that we are enjoying today would not be possible without the petrodollar system.  Once the petrodollar system collapses, a lot of our underlying economic vulnerabilities will be exposed and it will not be pretty.

Tough times are on the horizon.  It is imperative that we all get informed and that we all get prepared.

Michael Snyder is the editor of The Economic Collapse Blog

Just When India Needs Iran’s Help, It Sides With the Other Guys

On the wrong side of history

ATUL ANEJA

The Hindu

In trying to strike a balance between Iran and Saudi Arabia, India seems to have lost the plot on Syria.

In casting its vote on Syria with the West and the Arab League at the United Nations Security Council, India may have lost a rare opportunity to impart solid political content to the Brazil-Russia-China-India-South Africa (BRICS) grouping, which has so far focussed on economic issues.

Two key countries belonging to BRICS — China and Russia — vetoed the West-backed resolution, which did not explicitly call for the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, to quit. However, it implicitly did demand the President’s departure as it backed the position adopted by the Arab League, which had earlier called for Mr. Assad’s exit. In the Arab League’s perception, the President needed to make way for Syria’s Vice-President with a national unity government overseeing the political transition.

Libya’s experience weighed heavily in determining the Russian and Chinese positions on Syria. Both countries publicly acknowledged that they had been misled by the West on Libya. The western powers and some of their key Arab allies had, instead of protecting civilians through the establishment of no-fly zones, the stated intention of the resolution, manoeuvred it to institute a regime change. In the end, the Security Council Resolution 1973, on which Russia, China and India had abstained, paved the way for the grisly killing of the former Libyan leader, Muammar Qadhafi.

Divergent ideologies

The debate over Syria has also demonstrated the clash of two divergent and competing ideological positions. The West is undermining the principle of national sovereignty, with the implicit backing of the doctrine of the Right 2 Protect (R2P), which allows international military intervention in a sovereign nation when the State, in the perception of the “international community,” endangers the lives of its citizens on a large scale.

Rejecting “humanitarian interventions,” China and Russia, on the contrary, have staunchly defended and invoked the principle of sovereignty, which they say the U.N. must uphold in formulating its stance towards Syria. This has been the core of their position, from which they have not budged so far, despite their recent attempts to evolve a position around which an international consensus can evolve.

The heated debates on Syria in the U.N. cannot be seen in isolation. They mask a clash of great intensity, of competing geopolitical agendas, which are being played out at several levels. For Russia and China, the insistence on regime change in Syria is part of a long narrative scripted mainly by the United States, to overwhelmingly establish its cascading control over the rest of the world in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union. This has taken the form of western backed colour-coded revolutions, as in the case of Ukraine and Georgia, or use of varying degrees of force, some of it covert, as seen in the case of former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Lebanon and in Libya, in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. China is of the view, that in the end, Beijing could become a target of the so-called “pro-democracy,” regime change subversion and must therefore stand up to the West, as it has done on Syria, to stem the tide, even at the cost of losing some tactical ground.

Tactical versus strategic

India seems to have lost a trick by voting on tactical rather than strategic considerations with the West and the Arab League on Syria. There is an argument that India’s vote was the result of a great balancing act it undertook between Iran and Saudi Arabia — the two countries locked in a bitter and escalating Cold War in West Asia. In trying to balance its interests between Iran and the pro-West Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia, India sided with Iran, and despite enormous pressure from the Americans and the Gulf countries, refused to enforce oil sanctions against Tehran, which were being imposed outside the U.N. framework.

Flawed presumption

Having done so, it appeared to have gone with Saudi Arabia by voting with the West and the Arab League on Syria, apparently to protect its legitimate and growing interests with the petro-monarchies — the source of billions of dollars of remittances, a lucrative source of investment, and the anchor of India’s energy security. There is also an argument that Saudi Arabia has become important as a factor in influencing Pakistan, and is therefore important to India on grounds of national security.

Finally, it is being said that by voting with the West and the pro-West Arab regimes, India has positioned itself on the “right side of history,” in the post-Cold War era — a superficial and deeply flawed presumption at a time when the locus of global economic power has already shifted East, and it may not be long before emerging powers discover that they are capable of asserting themselves, ever more strongly, on the global political stage.

It is in trying to find a tactical balance to protect its interests in the region, in a framework largely bereft of a larger strategic vision that India seems to have lost the plot on Syria. Viewed from a strategic perspective, the Indian establishment appears to have under-appreciated the importance of Iran, Syria’s core ally, to India’s larger national interests. Not only is Iran indispensable as the gateway for protecting India’s interests in Afghanistan as well as for reasons of energy security, it is also the key for developing India’s ties with Iraq in the post-Saddam era.

After the demise of the former Iraqi President, who was India’s reliable partner, and the impending exit of American forces from the country, Iran has emerged as the biggest gainer and potentially the chief power broker that can facilitate India’s re-entry into Iraq — a country with a vast untapped oil wealth that is bound to feature ever more prominently in India and China’s energy security matrix in the future.

But by voting against the Syrian regime, India adopted a position that was plainly hostile to Iran, for Damascus is the lynchpin for projecting Iranian influence in the Levant. It is also more than likely that if a “regime change” is accomplished in Syria, with Israeli pressure already substantial on the American establishment, the Islamic Republic may soon find itself fighting for its political survival. Such an existential threat may force Tehran to review its position on the nuclear issue and impart a so far unproven militaristic dimension to its atomic programme. In plain language, “regime change” in Syria may push an isolated Iran to develop the atomic bomb and permanently change the regional balance of power — a situation that does not suit India’s larger interests in West Asia.

The argument that India’s vote on Syria was necessary to protect India’s deepening interests in the arena of human resource, trade and energy in this vast oil bearing zone is specious, to say the least. There is no doubt that India has heavy stakes in the Gulf, which is the source of billions of dollars of remittances from Indians who work there, as well as on account of burgeoning trade. But this relationship has evolved out of economic necessity, and is reflective of a mutually advantageous win-win situation. India’s vote at the U.N. is hardly going to threaten this deep-rooted relationship with the Gulf countries, especially at a time when the pragmatic Arabs have realised that the presence of disciplined Indians lies at the core of their economic development.

Heavy price

There is no doubt that India needs to continue building its ties with the Gulf countries in all major spheres of engagement. However, it does not mean that New Delhi, an outsider to the region, should pay a heavy price for protecting its interests by joining, however inadvertently, the Cold War between Saudi Arabia and Iran centred around Syria, which is a purely regional affair.

Finally, the developments in Syria give India an opportunity to bond on the political plain with Russia and China, and carry with it Brazil, which might have voted against the Syrian regime at the U.N. not entirely out of conviction. Fresh avenues are opening India’s way, not only for undertaking a course correction on Syria, but for imparting a prominent political dimension to BRICS. The upcoming BRICS summit that India is hosting may emerge as the first major occasion for New Delhi to make a fresh start.

Peshawar Elders Decline To Do the Government’s Job for Them

Tackling militancy: Plans for grand peace militia run aground

Elders see peace militias as soft targets for militant groups. PHOTO: EPA/FILE

PESHAWAR: Proposals to set up a grand peace militia to tackle consistent militant attacks on the outskirts of Peshawar failed after locals expressed strong reservations, The Express Tribunelearnt on Thursday.

Elders of 10 villages bordering the confluence of Khyber Agency, Frontier Regions Peshawar and Kohat gathered at the Provincial Assembly’s conference hall to convince the locals to form a grand alliance against militants from various factions, who recently stepped up their attacks. An elder, who was privy to the meeting, told The Express Tribune that a consensus could not be reached because seven out of the 10 villages opposed the idea of a grand peace lashkar.

“The Adezai Lashkar and other such militias in the area are creating a lot of problems. Instead of fighting militancy, they were a threat themselves and harassing people in the area,” he said on the condition of anonymity. The elder added that the meeting was originally scheduled for March 11 — the day when a suicide bomber ripped through a funeral procession in Badhaber — but it was held later on March 20.

“The main reason for the jirga was to discuss development projects for the area, including the provision of natural gas and resolving the power crisis,” stated another elder. But upon their arrival the agenda was altered and the formation of a grand militia was also included.

Deputy Speaker Khushdil Khan, who was the target of the suicide attack, presided over the meeting. He told this scribe that the idea was discussed in the meeting, but because of the differences in opinion, the idea was scrapped. “We already have lashkars in place but because someone put up the idea of a grand alliance, we pursued it,” he claimed.

Sources said the local elders had stated that law and order was not their responsibility. Instead, it was the responsibility of the local police to ensure the protection of lives and property. The elders of Mattani, Adezai, Sherakera, Azakhel, Maryamzai and Surizai showed strong reservations on grounds that the peace lashkars were a favourable target for militants. An elder reiterated that the militants also targeted mosques and funerals. “How do you expect we will be protected against well-armed, trained and motivated militants?”

There were at least six groups of militants ranging from the offshoots of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan to Bara-based Lashkar-e-Islam that were engaged in terrorist activities and kidnappings for ransom in the region.

Published in The Express Tribune

ADB Fronting for Both US and Chinese Development Projects In Central Asia

Tajikistan to participate in ADB conference on regional cooperation

Asia-Plus

DUSHANBE, March 20, 2012, Asia-Plus — The Asian Development Bank (ADB), in cooperation with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), is organizing a two-day conference that will bring together government officials from Asia and the Pacific to share their experiences in regional cooperation in transport, energy and trade, the ADB Tajikistan Resident Mission (TJRM) reports.

Senior officials from the Tajikistan government will also attend the Conference on Regional Cooperation and Integration—Experiences in Asia and the Pacific, which takes place in Kunming, PRC on March 26-27, 2012.

“The conference will discuss, among others, the role of economic corridors, regional financial integration and investment promotion; and at the end, will consolidate lessons learned and prepare a summary of best practices and a plan to widen and deepen cooperation in the region,” said Joji Tokeshi, ADB’s Country Director for Tajikistan.

Tajikistan’s delegation will be headed by the First Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Hoidullokhon Faqerov, and comprise senior representatives from the President’s Office and State Committee on Investments and State Property Management.

ADB supports several regional economic cooperation programs, including the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Program, and the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Program. CAREC 2020, new 10-year strategy adopted last November, focuses on trade expansion and improved competitiveness; GMS’s 10-year strategy aims to enhance agricultural development, implement multi-country tourism packages, and promote low-carbon development.

Tajikistan is an active participant and major beneficiary of CAREC Program, receiving over $445 million to rehabilitate road corridors from Dushanbe to the Kyrgyz border (Sarytash), and Uzbek border (Tursunzoda); modernize customs infrastructure; build power transmission line connecting Tajikistan and Afghanistan; rebuild the 500kV switchyard at Norak Hydro Power Plant; and expand and modernize the electricity transmission system.

Established in 2001, CAREC brings together Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, PRC, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.  It promotes regional projects in energy, transport, and trade facilitation.

Cambodia, the PRC (specifically Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region), Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam formed the GMS Program in 1992.

ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members – 48 from the region.

Turkish Solitaire

Turkish Solitaire

By Vladimir EVSEEV (Russia)

OrientalReview

Turkish Solitaire

After Syrian security forces liberated first the area west of Homs and then the area northwest of Idlib, it became obvious that now only a foreign invasion can overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. And Damascus is doing its best to exploit its advantage as quickly as possible: It got a new constitution approved by referendum, proclaimed a national unity government and scheduled parliamentary elections for May 7.

Both the West and the Arab League have begun stepping more cautiously around Syria. It is difficult otherwise to find an explanation for how Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was able to come to agreement on basic principles for resolving the Syrian crisis with his counterparts from the Arab League at a March 10 meeting in Cairo: an end to violence by all parties, an impartial monitoring mechanism, no foreign intervention, unhindered access for humanitarian assistance to all Syrians, and support for UN-Arab League Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s mediation mission.

The West is somewhat hopeful that his mission will succeed, but it is not truly helping to bring about a political dialogue between the government and the opposition. Meanwhile, it is looking at providing humanitarian assistance to the opposition and supplying it with means of communications, and it is pressuring Baghdad to prevent weapons for the Syrian government from going through Iraqi territory.

The views of the Persian Gulf states towards Damascus are the most radical. Qatar believes that foreign forces, primarily Arab, are needed to resolve Syria’s domestic conflict. Given what happened with Libya, that probably means a military operation by NATO countries that simulates Qatari and United Arab Emirates involvement. In reality, however, the only member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that may decide to use military force is Turkey. But Ankara is not ready for a full-scale war. Turkey would would be fine with seizing areas of Syria on its northern border to create a so-called “buffer zone” where the Free Syrian Army could marshal its forces for a march on Damascus. One reason for that is the support Syria’s leaders are currently giving the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey.

It should be noted that since 1980 Syria has not only given PKK members political asylum, it has also assisted them to the point that the Turks found it necessary to mine the entire 900-kilometer border with its southern neighbor (the emplacement of 700,000 antipersonnel mines indicates the scale of the effort). It was apparently the Soviet Union that brought Syria and the PKK together. The following factors contributed to that: territorial claims on the Sandjak of Alexandretta (now the Turkish Hatay region), competition with Turkey for regional leadership, and a significant reduction in the discharge of the Euphrates River after the construction of hydropower and irrigation projects in South-Eastern Anatolia during the 1970s and 1980s.

That moved Turkey and Syria to the brink of war in the fall of 1998. It was only thanks to the shuttle diplomacy of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi that an armed conflict was avoided. The Jeikhan Agreement was signed in October of that year. Under that agreement, Kurdistan Workers’ Party leader Abdullah Öcalan was forced to leave Syria, PKK military camps were banned from Syrian territory, and some members of the organization were arrested.

Syrian-Turkish cooperation was further strengthened by the rise to power of Bashar al-Assad, who began pursuing pragmatic domestic and foreign policies, as well as by the establishment of a de facto independent Iraqi Kurdistan. That made possible the first ever official visit by a Syrian president to Ankara in January 2004 and the signing of bilateral free trade and water sharing agreements, and it made it possible for Turkey to mediate the return of the Golan Heights, which Israel had occupied in 1967.

The situation changed again in 2009, when Turkey began more confidently asserting its regional leadership amidst the Arab Spring. It took part in the overthrow of Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, although it limited its actions to assisting the naval blockade. Ankara significantly downgraded its relations with Tel Aviv over Israel’s refusal to formally apologize for the deaths of Turkish members of the Freedom Flotilla that tried to deliver humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip in May 2010 despite repeated warnings from Tel Aviv. Turkey and several Western states believe members of the Israeli military overreacted.

Under Ankara’s foreign policy, it has essentially begun interfering in Syria’s internal affairs by establishing logistics bases for the Free Syrian Army on its own territory and forming the Syrian National Council with the assistance of Western countries. Moreover, according to some reports, more than 70 Turkish officers have been captured in Syria. It is from here that attempts are being made to smuggle weapons and infiltrate radical Syrian opposition groups. Turkey is willing to establish a “humanitarian” aid corridor allegedly to expand these activities.

I should point out that the Syrian leadership has found it necessary to cooperate with followers of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. First of all, the Kurds control much of the arms smuggling from Turkey to Syria. Second, given the unstable domestic situation (which is on the verge of civil war), Damascus cannot ensure the security of areas with a heavy Kurdish population. That is taken care of by 2000 Kurds. Third, the strong, sometimes excessive, Turkish pressure on President Assad is forcing him to play the so-called “Kurdish card.” As a result, Syrian Kurds have for the first time received considerable autonomy, including the right to open their own schools.

The Kurdish factor, the desire to lead and expand Turkey’s sphere of influence in the Middle East and continuing US influence will prod the Turkish government to put troops on Syrian territory.

However, there are factors that will work to counter that, including Ankara’s reluctance to damage its relations with Moscow. We saw evidence of that last month in Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s telephone call to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. During that conversation, both countries displayed a willingness to coordinate actions in the interest of expeditiously ending the Syrian crisis by peaceful means. Since then, the tone of statements by the Turkish leadership regarding Damascus and President Assad has been significantly less harsh. It is also noteworthy that the statements are unfailingly accompanied by remarks that the use of force to resolve the problem is unacceptable.

Turkey’s main opposition parties, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party, hold a similar points of view. They believe that what is happening in Syria is the internal affair of that country. For example, according to Faruk Loğoğlu, a CHP leader, nothing, not even humanitarian aid, can legitimize Ankara’s intervention in the affairs of neighboring states. He condemned US attempts to push his country into a war with Syria that “will put Turkey in a difficult position.”

This is what members of the Turkish opposition believe: Any intervention by Turkey in Syrian affairs will make the situation worse, disrupt the regional balance of power, cause countries friendly to Syria to reciprocate, and form the basis for long-term hostility towards Ankara by the entire Arab world. That opinion needs to be heeded. A statement by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu saying Turkey would give the Syrian opposition no material or military support confirms that. However, the amount of assistance provided through informal channels is only increasing.

The political risks for Turkey’s current leaders are quite high should there be an armed conflict with Syria. Numerous officer purges to remove the military from the real levers of power have seriously weakened the national armed forces. The Syrian army as a whole remains loyal to the current government, and should there be a foreign invasion the opposition could not provide much assistance for fear of being accused of betraying national interests. Worse yet, part of the opposition together with the Kurds would resist the Turkish Army with force.

Turkey’s Kurdish problem would evidently be exacerbated. Syrian intelligence would become more active, and the Alawites would intensify their anti-government activities. According to some estimates, Turkey has between 10 and 15 million Alawites. The country’s economic situation would worsen due to, for example, a significant drop in tourism (in 2011, 36 million tourists from Germany, Russia, the United States, Italy and France visited Turkey, contributing $23 billion to the nation’s budget).

Turkey stands to lose a great deal if the amount of oil and natural gas transiting Turkey on its way to Europe drops sharply (which could very well happen if there is a war). The country’s foreign policy isolation could increase, complicating bilateral relations with Russia, Iran and several other states. All of this taken together could result in a serious crisis of government and bring opposition parties to power. It is a very realistic scenario and one that requires the government to step very carefully in its actions towards Syria.

____________________________________

Vladimir Evseev is the Director of the Russian Center for Social and Political Studies. 

Source: New Eastern Outlook

Construction on third line begins for Central Asia-China Gas Pipeline

Construction on third line begins for Central Asia-China Gas Pipeline

Pipelines International

Construction on third line begins for Central Asia-China Gas Pipeline

Ceremonies have marked the commencement of construction of Line C of the Central Asia-China Gas Pipeline’s Uzbekistan section.

A commencement ceremony was held in Gazli, Uzbekistan, to celebrate the start of construction for Line C of the Central Asia-China Gas Pipeline. China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) Vice President Wang Dongjin and Uzbekneftegaz First Deputy Chairman Shavkat Mazhitov cut the ribbon and delivered speeches at the ceremony.

Line C of the Central Asia-China Gas Pipeline covers a distance of 529 km in Uzbekistan and plays an important role in diversifying Uzbekistan’s gas exports.

Running 1,840 km in parallel with Lines A and B which have already become operational, Line C is designed to deliver 25 Bcm/a of natural gas from Turkme-nistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to China.

It is estimated that gas supply will commence from January 2014, and reach the designed throughput in December 2015, enhancing the total transmission capacity of the Central Asia-China Gas Pipeline to 55 Bcm/a.

The Central Asia-China Gas Pipeline will start at Gedaim on the border of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, running through central Uzbekistan and southern Kazakhstan before ending at Horgos in China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, where it will be connected to the Second West-East Gas Pipeline.

Line C will add to the Central Asia-China Gas Pipeline’s existing dual parallel lines, each running for 1,833 km. Line A became operational in December 2009, and Line B became operational in 2010.

In July 2007, CNPC signed a production-sharing contract to explore and develop gas fields on the right bank of the Amu-Darya River with the Turkmen State Agency, and a natural gas purchase and sales agreement with Turkmengazi State Concern.

CNPC then signed two basic principle agreements on gas pipeline construction and operation with KazMunayGaz and Uzbekneftegaz respectively, under the framework agreements on pipeline construction and operation between the Chinese government and the Kazakh and Uzbek governments. Under the agreements, CNPC would invest in a cross-border gas pipeline in central Asia, through which Turkmenistan would supply China with 30 Bcm/a of natural gas for 30 years.

Aside from fostering economic co-operation between China and central Asian countries, the pipeline is also expected to be a source of prosperity for the region, promoting the development of, and investment, in local natural gas resources, stimulating the growth of local equipment manufacturing and construction industries, and creating employment opportunities.

Safety a top priority

CNPC said “We believe in health, safety and environment management, and emphasise the health and safety of our overseas contractors.

In 2008, there were no accidents during the 5.89 million man hours of production, and no traffic accidents for vehicles travelling a total of 9.95 million kilometres.”

The company has implemented a number of safety and environmental measures on the project including:

  • Forbidding project vehicles to travel outside the operating zone.
  • Excavating pipe trenches on farmland strictly in accordance with rules on stripping of mature soil, piling immature and mature soil separately from each other, and backfilling the soil to restore the original environment.
  • Welding the pipeline in a way that ensured there was a crossing every 2 km for cattle, sheep, and wild animals.
  • Ensuring all engineering projects had passed local governments’ environmental assessments.
  • Strictly observing local environmental laws and regulations.

Image caption: Snapshots of construction on the Central Asia-China Gas Pipeline.

Appeared in issue: Pipelines International - March 2012Pipelines International — March 2012

Russia rules Pipelineistan

Russia rules Pipelineistan


By Pepe Escobar

Nabucco – the alleged gas Holy Grail from the Caspian Sea to Europe, 4,000 kilometers from Turkey to Austria – is the perennial Pipelineistan soap opera.
Part of the gas to supply Nabucco may come from Azerbaijan. Another part might – a very problematic "might" – come from Turkmenistan. But every self-respecting energy analyst knows

Nabucco could only possibly work if it was supplied by natural gas from Iran. That will happen over Washington’s collective dead body.
So, once again, the spineless European Union (EU) political "leadership" – once again acting like the poodles of choice – gloriously sabotaged what it has always billed as its most ambitious energy project; caved in to US pressure; and ultimately sacrificed its energy independence. And all this from people who never lose an opportunity to decry that Europe is a "gas hostage" to Russia’s Gazprom.
As with all things Pipelineistan, there are layers and layers of nuance. Moscow is pulling out all the stops to prevent Iran from eventually joining Nabucco – because its top policy agenda is to extend its stranglehold over the EU’s gas supply to 30%.
The crucial Azerbaijan gas angle is centered on the huge Shah Deniz 2 fields. For what is called the Southern Corridor, via Italy, two possible pipelines are in competition. Then there are two others competing on a Northern/Balkans route; one of them is Nabucco; the other, faithful to the acronym-laden ethos of Pipelineistan, is the South East Europe Pipeline (SEEP). Only next year will the world know the end chapter for this never-ending soap opera.
For the Southern Corridor, the favorite is TAP (Trans-Adriatic pipeline), a Swiss-German-Norwegian joint venture. TAP will use infrastructure already in place and only needs investment in a short underwater pipeline from Greece to Italy. Norway’s Statoil, crucially, is a 25.5% partner in the exploitation of Shah Deniz 2 fields; that makes things way easier.
For the Northern/Balkans route, the fat lady may be about to sing for Nabucco. The favorite to win is a BP project, much cheaper than Nabucco, and with no need to use Turkmen gas.
BP – of Gulf of Mexico polluting fame – happens to be the major stockholder of Shah Deniz 2. Azerbaijan – mired in corruption – can be reasonably described as BP country. Even his close ally Washington knows Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev is something of a Mafia boss. The Azeris, by the way, happen to be very popular in Washington courtesy of the Israeli lobby.
We play chess the win-win way
A certified winner in this complex Pipelineistan battle is Turkey. After all, any gas from Azerbaijan towards Europe must transit through Turkey. Since last December, in fact, Turkey and Azerbaijan have a memorandum in place committing both to the construction of the TANAP (Trans-Anatolian Pipeline). TANAP will eventually become part of the Southern Corridor.
Even if Azerbaijan decides to sell its extra gas wealth to Russia, Turkey also wins. Turkey has authorized the underwater passage of the Russian-Italian (Vladimir Putin-Silvio Berlusconi?) South Stream pipeline in its territory in return for even more robust trade and energy ties with Russia.
But most of all Russia wins. South Stream is a go. Gazprom for its part has increased its charm offensive all across Central Asia; this means that the more Gazprom imports gas from them, the less gas will be available for Europe (unless it is sold by Russia …)
With Putin back in the presidency in May, the strategy that he laid out back in 2000 is graphically paying all kinds of dividends.
Gazprom’s head Alexei Miller – appointed by Putin – is totally invested in creating a complex economy of scale with energy supplying countries in the region, applying a very Chinese "win-win" mentality.
The leadership in Azerbaijan, for instance, knows very well that Russia is the only player capable of determining what goes on in the Caucasus – and on top of it offers great energy deals. So here’s the writing on the wall; Russia under Putin will be even more influential from the Caucasus to Central Asia.
For this to work, Russia had to torpedo Nabucco. In fact, the European-wide financial crisis took care of it. Nabucco may end up costing a staggering $25 billion – and counting. Nabucco’s construction "might" start by the end of 2014 and be finished by the end of 2017; but all dates have been incessantly postponed for years. Azerbaijan could only provide less than half of the gas. Nobody anywhere really knows what will be Turkmenistan’s game. And Iran has been ruled out by His Master’s Voice – Washington.
Still, the TCP (Trans-Caspian Pipeline) – between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan – remains in the cards. That, in theory, would be the gate for Europe to finally have (indirect) access to the Central Asian energy wealth of the Caspian Sea. Ashgabat and Baku seem to be in synch about it – the whole thing helped by EU-brokered negotiations. Turkey has also endorsed it. But Russia under Putin will do whatever it takes to bomb the TCP idea.
Still the most pressing question seems to be whether anybody in Brussels will wake up from its masochistic haze, stop the sanction nonsense, and talk energy with Iran.
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His most recent book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).
He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com

The big shift in South Asia

The big shift in South Asia

Michael Krepon

SINCE the Cold War ended, no region has experienced more shocks or a more significant reorientation in US foreign policy than South Asia. The big shift was enabled by the demise of the Soviet Union and New Delhi’s turn away from Nehruvian economics to market-oriented entrepreneurship.

Then came the 1998 nuclear tests, the Kargil war and the 9/11 attacks on US soil, which served to clarify Washington’s repositioning. Two of these bell-ringers occurred during the second term of the Clinton administration, when the big shift gained traction. After the 9/11 attacks, the subsequent US military campaign in Afghanistan and the US-India civil nuclear deal during the Bush administration solidified and accentuated Washington’s reorientation.

The end of the Cold War allowed New Delhi and Washington to view each other in a new light, a necessary but insufficient cause for a re-wiring of this magnitude. More consequential were the decisions by prime minister Narasimha Rao and finance minister Manmohan Singh to launch their market reforms in the early 1990s.

With this opening, powerful US interests could be mobilised to support initiatives to improve bottom lines. The rise of China and a far more politically active Indian-American community clearly reinforced economic impulses to improve ties between
Washington and New Delhi.

India’s nuclear-weapon programmes were a major impediment to improved ties with Washington. Until 1998, India was perpetually caught betwixt and between: it couldn’t join global nuclear compacts, but was reluctant to rock the boat. New Delhi’s default position was to champion nuclear disarmament while wishing to join the nuclear club.

The indefinite extension of the Nonproliferation Treaty in 1995 and the negotiation of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty a year later forced a long-delayed choice. A new, determined coalition government, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, finally pulled the nuclear trigger. Pakistan followed suit, and Washington had to adapt to new realities.

India remained in limbo after the nuclear tests because it chose not to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and couldn’t rewrite the Nonproliferation Treaty. Washington’s cold shoulder lasted until Pervez Musharraf’s dangerous misadventure in the heights above Kargil. Musharraf may have been seeking to exploit Pakistan’s newly overt nuclear capability as a shield while forcing Indian concessions on Kashmir. Instead, he created a significant opening for US-Indian rapprochement.

Desperate for a face-saving exit, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pleaded with President Bill Clinton to take a more direct interest by visiting the subcontinent. By the time he did so, Pakistan was once again under military rule. Clinton spent five days in India and five hours in Pakistan. He then hosted the Indian prime minister and his entourage at a huge gala on the White House lawn.

The reversal of Indian and Pakistani fortunes was in full swing, and about to be accentuated by the incoming Bush administration, which was looking for a counterweight to China.

The 9/11 attacks offered a short-term fillip to US-Pakistan relations in the form of a lifting of sanctions and the influx of military and economic aid. But US-Pakistan relations have foundered over Afghanistan, where interests merge at a level of generality that is repeatedly undercut by specifics. The familiar Pakistani story of betrayal now has a companion US narrative.

Washington’s reliance on drone attacks has mortgaged relations with Pakistan in order to salvage bad decisions in Afghanistan. At the same time, Rawalpindi’s investments in the Afghan Taliban and outfits to serve as its strategic reserves against India have badly frayed ties with Washington.

These tactics have also accentuated Pakistan’s economic decline, domestic divisions and diplomatic isolation. Bilateral US-Pakistan relations can still be patched up, but not in meaningful ways as long as Rawalpindi’s policies mortgage Pakistan’s future, use the United States as a scapegoat and risk new confrontations with India.In contrast, US-Indian ties will improve, but in measured fashion. Familiar voices in the United States and India will continue to call on Washington to do more and to pick up the pace, even though New Delhi’s performance falls well short of expectations. It’s very hard for two proud and exceptional nations to forge a strategic partnership, especially given the viscosity of Indian bureaucratic and domestic politics. At the end of the day, New Delhi will refuse to be Washington’s junior partner.

After an eventful two decades, Pakistan feels jilted, while the romance of Washington’s new relationship with New Delhi has become routinised. The big shift in US foreign policy towards the subcontinent will not be reversed. But the upswing in US-India ties, like the downward trajectory of US ties with Pakistan, requires managed expectations.

The writer is the co-founder of the Stimson Centre in Washington.

The ‘other’ Jewish conspiracy

The ‘other’ Jewish conspiracy

Jawed Naqvi

ROSA Luxemburg was a Jew and a communist. She was murdered by proto-Nazi Germans for being both. Several years ago, at the Mumbai World Social Forum, I acquired a largish haunting picture of her, which I now keep framed in my study.

Her piercing eyes remind me of the mortality of her beauty, of her gushing wisdom, of her intense selflessness and above all of her dedicated caring for the dispossessed. In the dark alleys of history we all are groping through it would be excessively poetic to describe her as immortal.

The right-wing upsurge across the world has laid low many a hope of an ideal world that women and men like Luxemburg fought for. She had differences with her comrades such as the autocratic Bolshevik ideologues from Moscow.

But could she have believed that in a not-too-distant future her fellow Jews, sufferers of racism and holocaust, would assume many of the trappings honed and crafted by the Nazis in Germany? Experiments with violence in Guantanamo Bay and Gaza
come to mind.

It was by a pleasant accident that I strayed onto the website of the Communist Party of Israel this week. As with so many struggles waged each day by ordinary people the world over the international media largely ignored the Israeli communists’ party congress organised this week in Haifa and Nazareth. If nothing else its deliberations would make some very shrill critics of Jews feel small for holding an entire race responsible for the atrocities committed by a few right-wing turncoats.

The Israeli communist party’s understanding of the international crisis of capitalism is especially worth noting just as is its critique of the government’s dangerous preparedness for a potentially insane war with Iran. In its resumé to the 26th party Congress held at Nazareth between March 15 and 17, the central committee said things that would make the picture in my room break into a dialectic dilemma.

It says for, example, that 2011 will be remembered as the year of ‘socio-political protest’ across the world. The ‘Arab Spring’, which began in December 2010, heralded a tide of social rage.

It engulfed many countries, among them Israel. The party noted that “cities all over the world sported protest camps and saw demonstrations by workers, women and above all — the youth, against the attempt to shift the burden of the ongoing economic crisis in the advanced capitalist countries onto their shoulders.

“The great corporations and their governments, first and foremost the US Administration, were at first hesitant in their response to the protest but soon regrouped and commenced violent repression of social protests, deepening their imperialist military and diplomatic interventions in the Middle East and North Africa, where the wave of protest began. “Imperialism is investing greater and greater efforts into turning the struggle of the peoples for democracy and social justice to its advantage, joining forces for the purpose with various reactionary regional actors, including religious fundamentalists.”

A guiding principle with the party is “support for the rights of the peoples and their role in rising up to depose despotic regimes which trample on human and civil rights, replacing them with advanced democratic regimes”.

The insurgency in the Arab world, which began in December 2010 is one of the “most important, unique and significant developments” among the Arab people.

Not all of the Arab Spring is acceptable, of course, the party says in a nuanced interpretation of the upheaval.

“The US and its allies, including Israel, are being hypocritical when they speak of democracy and claim to demand liberty, free elections and human rights in the Arab world.

“The opposite is true: they have historically, and do still, represent the greatest obstacle to democratic change in the Middle East. It is they who prevent the realisation of human and popular rights, first and foremost in Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Yemen and Libya — and their attitude towards Syria is no different.”

The Israeli communists recognise that the revolt of the Arab peoples has deep social class and political roots. “Neo-liberalism is the real reason for the deepening poverty, growing unemployment, repression and corruption of the Arab states.”

Of North African changes, it says a “regional capitalist regime, dependent on international corporations, has turned countries like Egypt and Tunisia into a paradise for capital and foreign investors and an inferno for workers and the broad popular strata, including the middle class.

“As far as the US is concerned, the future regime in Egypt must make sure to maintain Egypt’s dependency in the geopolitical sphere (with regard to ties with Israel and American strategy in the area), in the economic sphere (neo-liberalism) and in the
military sphere (subordination of the military establishment to Washington).

“The US plans to strengthen the hold on power of the reactionary bloc comprised of the grand bourgeoisie, which is dependent on global capital, the landowning stratum, and the leadership of political Islam. As expected, the American plan has been adopted both by the leadership of the military establishment and by the Muslim Brotherhood.”

The victories achieved by Islamic movements in the general elections in Tunisia and Egypt, and the Islamic regimes installed earlier in Sudan and the Gaza Strip, all indicate the emergence in the Arab countries of a religious-Islamist wave, fed by the rage of the masses. But the communists take a subtle position on it.

“Our basic position has not changed. We unhesitatingly declare our allegiance with the Arab peoples against imperialism, never with imperialism against the Arab peoples.” In response to the Arab insurgency we have updated this slogan to: “with the Arab peoples against imperialism and the regimes of repression and dependency”. This is a more complex formula, but these complex situations have no simplistic solution.

The Israeli communist party warned against the escalation of civil war in Syria and against the disaster which direct or indirect “imperialist military intervention” will impose upon it. “We denounce the complicity of the Arab League and Turkey in the attempts of the American administration, Nato and the Israeli government to yoke Syria to the hegemony of the US and the West.”

I can see Rosa Luxemburg smile with relief. I can see the usual frothing-at-the-mouth anti-Jewish Muslim extremists looking lost. I can see the Hindu right-wing of the Hindu-Jewish-Christian triad looking disoriented by this mostly unexpected and little known ‘Jewish conspiracy’ against their core beliefs.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.

jawednaqvi@gmail.com

The U.S. is playing with fire in the region AfPak

The U.S. is playing with fire in the region AfPak

Institute for Middle East

Yu.B.Scheglovin

The Taliban is temporarily slowed down its consultations with the Americans in Qatar. It seems that this is related to several aspects.

The first, and, of course, important – it is recent developments related to the shooting of Afghan civilians and an American sergeant in the ensuing mass disturbances. The Taliban are becoming more heed to the voice of the “crowd” and to actively use this fact to his campaign. Such was the case with the burning of the Koran by U.S. soldiers at a base in Bagram. The Taliban, in this case can not ignore the fact of mass disturbances and maintain at the same time negotiations “with the main enemy.” It’s an interesting point, because they used to such attention is not paid to public opinion, at least so clearly.

The second point. Americans have absolutely not prepared to discuss the unconditional withdrawal of Afghan President Karzai Hamidva from his post. In their version, it could be a gradual incorporation of the Taliban in power, with the unconditional resignation of weapons and the recognition of the partnership model with the current regime. Something like “circuit of the Tajik”, with its nuances of course. This is evidenced by the White House’s intention to keep its troops until at least 2014 with an emphasis on training the Afghan national army and security services. Recall that the recognition of the generals of the Pentagon “is now possible to rely only on a percentage of the total size of the entire Afghan army.” Hard to imagine that two years instructors will make a “miracle” and do what they could not do it for more than ten years. Especially since the main partners in this difficult work of the French at the present time has not yet set a date for withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan. The current battle for the Elysee Palace dictates the rules of the game, and now discusses the complete withdrawal of the military next year.

The third moment. The new leadership of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence deliberately slows down the pace of negotiations between the Taliban and the Americans. However, there are several reasons for this behavior. One of them – a secret contacts to activate Americans through the State Department and intelligence agencies with the Baloch leaders in Pakistan. These are two major groups, “Baluchistan Liberation Army” (H.Marri) and the Balochistan Republican Army (B.Bugti). In this action the Americans, Pakistanis linked in this direction with an increase in the number of attacks by separatists (600 episodes, which more than doubled as compared to 2010) on the Pakistani government officials and security forces. At the same time the Baluch leaders made at different levels of official figures in Washington, which will undoubtedly irritate Islamabad. The White House officially recognized the Baloch from the above two groups, “the official party to the conflict”, which means that they legitimize. It is considered the Pakistani military and the leadership “as the actual declaration of war.” At the same time, Americans are beginning to untwist the subject “of the imminent humanitarian disaster in Balochistan”, which dictates the adoption of urgent measures and tolerance “in the tribal zone” of charitable foundations and UN agencies. In the same series should be considered and the desire to open the White House, the U.S. General Consulate in Quetta.

For what it’s all done?

First, the “hang” of Islamabad and to outline a clear perspective of his large-scale conflict, “his home” if the Pakistanis will continue to take a “non-constructive position” on the settlement of the Afghan and NATO troops on the supply logistics corridors through Pakistan.

Second, the intentions of Americans (of course in return for their support) to turn the Baluch in the hammer to minimize or reduce the impact of “Al Qaeda” in the “tribal areas”. As far as this idea is productive, hard to judge, because the balance of power in the region was formed historically, and since such an operation, Baloch will definitely conflict with the Pashtun tribes that have a “jihadi” wing.

Third, Washington intends to use the Baluchis in full as a subversive force against Iran. Here they were inspired by the example “Jundullah”, whose members actually perform the task for a long time the CIA to conduct operations against the regime in Tehran.

If you add up all the foregoing, it can be concluded that Washington is once again began to “muddy” the game in the region with unknown AfPak “regional studies consequences” that are unlikely to be welcomed by central governments in the region. To encourage separatist sentiment is a very dangerous thing and can lead to tragic consequences.